"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Friday, December 5, 2014

Good Turnout for TWC Ascertainment Hearing

For those unable to attend, there is still an opportunity to send in questions or concerns to any of the BoS or the Town Administrator. One intriguing possibility mentioned was to determine if Metrocast, which provides cable service to Center Harbor  would have any interest in replacing TWC in Moultonboro. Another idea mentioned is to try and negotiate for Boston channels in our area instead of the Maine channels currently offered.

The following is the text of a handout that our Special Counsel provided for the public with some general guidelines about the process:

Cable Television Franchise Ascertainment Public Hearing
December 4, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.

Background and Purpose of Public Hearing
·         In October 2001, the Town of Moultonborough and Adelphia Cable Communications entered into a Cable Television Franchise Agreement under which the Town granted to Adelphia the non-exclusive right to construct, operate and maintain facilities necessary for the maintenance and operation of a cable system throughout the Town.

·         The franchise agreement provided that it would remain in full force and effect until March 19, 2017; and that such agreement would be automatically extended for an additional five years unless either party notified the other in writing of its desire to terminate the agreement at least one year before March 19, 2017.

·         Adelphia subsequently filed for bankruptcy and Time Warner Cable (“TWC”) assumed the rights and obligations of Adelphia’s contract with the Town.

·         Section 626 of the Communications Act of 1934 (“Cable Act”) provides that a cable operator may request the commencement of the franchise renewal process during the 6-month period which begins with the 36th month prior to the franchise expiration.  If the cable operator makes such a request, the Issuing Authority must begin ascertaining the community’s cable-related needs and interests within six months of receiving the cable operator’s request. 

·         TWC by letter dated June 6, 2014 made a request for the commencement of the renewal process.

·         The Town of Moultonborough commenced this proceeding, resulting in this public hearing, during the 6-month period under Section 626 (within 6 months of the June 6, 2014 TWC commencement letter).

·         Pursuant to Section 626 (a)(1) of the Cable Act, the purpose of this public hearing is to: (1) identify the future cable-related needs and interests of the community; and (2) to review the performance of the cable operator during the current franchise term.

·         Upon completion of the present public hearing process, the cable operator seeking renewal of a franchise may submit a proposal for renewal of the franchise.  Upon submittal by a cable operator of a proposal for the renewal of a franchise, the franchising authority (the Town of Moultonborough) shall provide prompt public notice of such proposal.  The Town shall then either renew the franchise or issue a preliminary assessment that the franchise should not be renewed, in which case, at the request of the franchise operator or on its own initiative, commence an administrative proceeding, with public notice of the proceeding, to determine whether the cable franchise should be renewed.
Tonight’s Public Hearing
At tonight’s public hearing, any testimony and evidence that relates to future cable-related needs and interests of Moultonborough or the performance of the prior cable operators (Adelphia and Time Warner) may be presented.  This would include, but not be limited to, evidence and testimony regarding the following:
·         The extent of cable services and programs to be provided under any renewal contract.

·         The cost of cable services to subscribers.

·         The cable operator’s billing practices.

·         Whether discounts for seniors should be available.

·         Potential expansions or upgrades of the existing cable system.

·         The timeframe for the cable operator making any such expansions or upgrades.

·         Procedures for responding to subscriber complaints.

·         Whether the cable operator has the financial, legal and technical ability to provide adequate services, facilities and equipment desired by the community.

·         Whether and to what extent the cable operator should provide channels for the local origination of public access, educational and governmental (“PEG”) programming.

·         Whether and to what extent the cable operator should provide facilities and equipment to be used by Moultonborough residents, Town employees and officials, non-profit groups and school employees.

·         Whether and to what extent free service should be provided to municipal buildings, including police, fire, schools, libraries, and other public buildings.

·         Provisions for using the cable system to notify citizens in the event of an emergency.

·         The term and duration of any renewal contract.

·         The standards for requiring the cable operator to provide service in specific areas of town.

·         The amount of the franchise fee to be paid by the cable operator (presently 2%, up to 5% allowed under Cable Act). 

·         Cable operator insurance and indemnification provisions.

·         Any other matter reasonably related to future cable-related needs and interests of the community and the performance of the prior and present cable operators.
Spoiler Alert:
While issues of pricing, specific channel arrays, and internet services may be of deep concern to many person and while the BoS may negotiate there are limits as to what the regulations allow the Board to negotiate.
That said, the BoS may advocate for the [public’s interest outside these limits but do understand their ability to require TWC to take specific actions is limited if not non-existent.
Note:  Renewal of a franchise can only be denied for one or more of the following reasons (47 U.S.C.A. §546(d)):
1.   The cable operator has not substantially complied with the material terms of the existing franchise and with applicable law.
2.   The quality of the operator's service, including signal quality, response to consumer complaints, and billing practices, but without regard to the mix or quality of cable services or other services provided over the system, has not been reasonable in light of community needs.
3.   The operator does not have the financial, legal, and technical ability to provide the services, facilities and equipment it has proposed to provide.
4.   The operator's franchise renewal proposal is not reasonable to meet the future cable-related needs and interests of the community, taking into account the cost of meeting such needs and interests.


17 comments:

Anonymous said...

ANY changes MUST include Boston Channels.....the current Maine setup is a non starter for most of us. And TWC must not cut back speeds on internet. But the Boston channels are a major item that the BOS must try and negotiate into any future deal. Since our blogger is on the BOS, this message should get logged by the BOS.

Anonymous said...

The "Maine" channels may be covered on another federal law or FCC ruling.
Belknap County gets the Boston channels and Carroll County gets the Maine channels.
But. I have very limited knowledge on this.
So someone chime in on this who does know.

Joe Cormier/jcormier2@myfairpoint.net said...

RE: 8:11AM post

Here's a start from 2009!

http://www.winnipesaukee.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7667

Cornell Law:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/76.59

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations:

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title47/47cfr76_main_02.tpl


Maybe we can fire-up some folks from Presque Isle and get some Canadian news.

Anonymous said...

GoodTurnout...there were 13 of us in the audience at the hearing. This is a good turnout at a BOS meeting..

Confused said...

Wierd ground rules at this hearing. We were talking about a cable entering your home ( or not ). That provides 70 to 75 % if the Internet in town! but we could only talk about T V.. Same wire...2 services....will we get a separate hearing for T W Internet service?

Where You At ? said...

T W here for contract renewal....and we don't know where in town they provide service. Point ONE.....ask them for a map of town, showing where they have cable run. They have never provided the town a map of their coverage, but they want our money......and for sure, they are NOT spending our money on content....

Joe Cormier/jcormier2@myfairpoint.net said...

"Confused said...

Wierd ground rules at this hearing. We were talking about a cable entering your home (or not). That provides 70 to 75 % if the Internet in town! but we could only talk about T V.. Same wire...2 services....will we get a separate hearing for T W Internet service?"

1) Weird ground rules.
Not actually. "Cable" and "Internet" are legally separate. The "cable" franchise pertains to "cable" (like TV) only. The one exception is EXHIBIT B in MoBo's present contract, referring to one free cable modem connection to Public Library, MA, & MoBo Central school.

2) 70-75% of service. Based on whose numbers ... LRPC, Broadband committee ... ooops... broadband workgroup, UNH ... the same UNH that owes us a report on the "GYM"? Do all these 70-75% people walking/driving around, have cable coax cable or fiber cable coming out of their ears?

3) Separate hearing for Broadband (not internet) ... don't bank on it ... but it is surely needed!

Anonymous said...

Is there an alternative to TW? Is any other provider willing, or able, to come in to MBoro? Has Verizon, or any of the other large providers, been asked to bid on the contract?

Anonymous said...

2 points -- federal law specifically excludes internet and telephone service from the discussion -- only television / video service is regulated in the franchise agreement, second none of the other CATV providers are interesting in bidding since they do not own any of the infrastructure and would have to wire the town as well as provide the exact same tv services as the current provider, including franchise fees and local access.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Time Warner own all of the wires. Hard and expensive for another company to come in and take over!

Anonymous said...

Any new provider coming in would probably make T W an offer for T W infrastructure. It may have cost T W big bucks, for wire and labor, but it is worth peanuts as scrap,and the labor to clean it off the poles costly. T W, being publically owned, can't spend to much to be vindictive here, and say no.. THO with all the new tech coming, who wants to get into the business now..

Bus To Where ? said...

During the public hearing, a vender change was mentioned... Our T A was less then enthuastic on it, and mentioned several obsticals. I suspect his goal is to just renew, but try to get the best deal possible out of T W.
If the T A isn't for it, it won't happen. He has already engaged the lawyer to re-negotiate the contract, well before this public hearing.
Be quiet, and get on the bus.

Joe Cormier/jcormier2@myfairpoint.net said...

The following is written in non-legalese.

Also, you might ask yourself, has any other town wanted to get rid of a cable company, and what happened?

http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/evolution-cable-television

Worried.. said...

This hearing adjourned into a selectman Business meeting where one of the topics introduced was an extension of K V Partners ( town engineer ) contract. This was put on hold till Dec 13...Just around the corner..
Concerns were voiced by the audience about the grandiose expensive plans they seem to develop, if you have concerns about our successes in the civil engineering realm, time to let the BOS know.

Anonymous said...

If memory serves me, KV Partners was not the search committees 1st choice. Time for a change...change is good.

Broadband Bill said...

At the BOS meeting on 12/18, the 2014 report from the Broadband Working Group is on the agenda. The scheduled 10 minutes isn't enough to present all of the findings, but the full report is published on the town's web site - or use the link in this comment header.

Joe Cormier/jcormier2@myfairpoint.net said...

"- or use the link in this comment header."

Means ... click on "Broadband Bill".

More specifically, click on "Broadband Bill" from the comments section, and it will bring you to the report. Clicking on "Broadband Bill" (on the left) when you came to this website, will get you to here.

I'm not as quick as Bill, so I thought I'd comment, just in case others might not have grasped the intent.

The report is a good read, and worth the effort to "click on Bill". :)