CGA Energy and Technology
March 15, 2011 Public Hearing
Testimony by Pua Ford, Media Committee Specialist
Support for Raised HB 5473 AAC Public Access Operations and the Periodic Review of Video Providers
My name is Pua Ford. I am the Media Issues specialist for the League of Women Voters of
Connecticut. On behalf of the League, I would like to thank this committee for the opportunity
to comment on this bill. Our perspective on these issues is based on our 2008 position:
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut believes that community access television
channels must be adequately protected, promoted, and funded, regardless of the provider
of TV/video services to Connecticut residents. Government should provide opportunities for
citizen participation in decisions regarding community access, or PEG, TV.
Access to the public airwaves through modem TV or video communication is essential to
the public interest and to League of Women Voters’ mission and purpose – to protect civil
liberties, to ensure open, transparent government, and to promote the public’s right to know.
To protect the public interest, high quality PEG transmission and PEG availability on basic
service tiers are essential
This is the fourth year that Periodic Review of the cable television and competitive video
industry has come before this committee. The League has strongly supported periodic review
with the hope that various problems that have arisen since the introduction of competitive video
might be addressed.
What is different this year is the recent Draft Decision on Docket 11-08-06 Public Utilities
Regulatory Authority Investigation into Community Access Programming and Operations. A
review process for the community access providers (CAPs), not the cable/video providers, is
proposed. We had hopes that the proposed reviews might take care of some issues and will offer
Written Exceptions to the Draft Decision for possible changes.
A review of cable and video providers as proposed here may be better, because it can address
issues not covered by a review of CAPs, such as consumer issues. Some had expected that a
competi-tive marketplace would allow consumers to vote with their dollars, making regulation
unnecessary, but after four years we have doubts.
CAPs and other community access programmers need operating funds as well as capital funds.
Even with available volunteer labor, some paid staff is needed to complete the mission of
community access. In some places, the only source for this compensation is the per subscriber
fees for community access support. We support this section as helpful to the smaller community
access operations, and as equitable and fair, since larger CAPs already use the per subscriber fees
for personnel costs.
It is our understanding that some town-specific channels lost funding after PA 07 253. If this
matter has not yet been settled by DPUC or PURA, we support this section to restore their funds,
the same as we would support adequate funding for other community access programming.
Although this appears to be a simple update of statutory language, the term “entity” is vague and
open to unintended consequences. We urge caution in considering this.
The League strongly supports restoration of the Connecticut Broadband Internet Coordinating
Council, which continued to meet and discuss issues even without a budget. The recent study
by the CT Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) on broadband access and adoption
includes a description of CBICC and its role in advising both this committee and a proposed
broadband cabinet. It appears to be the only group that brings public and private sectors to
the table, and has been a new window on their thoughts concerning broadband internet needs.
CBICC was on the point of reporting to your committee this year before members learned that
their estab-lishment had been repealed, and the council was forced to suspend activity.
CBICC’s discussions of “e-government” services and the needs of municipal govern-ments
for better connectivity focused on many issues of concern such as to emergency management,
proposed election reforms and the statewide voter data-base and the improvement of education.
Their work should continue.
I thank the Committee for the opportunity to comment on these issues today on behalf of the
League of Women Voters of Connecticut.
Pua Ford, Media Issues Specialist
League of Women Voters of Connecticut
(As formally posted.)
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Public Utilities Regulatory AuthorityDocket 11-08-06: PURA Investigation into Community Access Programming and Operations Written Comments by Pua Ford, Media Specialist
On behalf of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, I thank you for the opportunity to comment on the above-referenced docket. The League represents over 1,800 members in 28 local chapters throughout the state. Most of our Leagues depend on local community access television channels for disseminating their forums and candidate debates to the electorate, which would never be fully covered by broadcast or statewide cable news. Some members take up the camera themselves, producing programs for their local access centers, both town-specific and regional.
In 2006-08, the League carried out a study of various media issues, including community access—public, educational, and governmental access (PEG)—television. The membership arrived at concurrence on the following pertinent positions: The League of Women Voters of Connecticut believes that community access television channels must be adequately protected, promoted, and funded, regardless of the provider of TV/video services to Connecticut residents. Government should provide opportunities for citizen participation in decisions regarding community access, or PEG, TV. Access to the public airwaves through modem TV or video communication is essential to the public interest and to League of Women Voters’ mission and purpose – to protect civil liberties, to ensure open, transparent government, and to promote the public’s right to know. To protect the public interest, high quality PEG transmission and PEG availability on basic service tiers are essential.
In light of the League’s active use of PEG programming and our support for its continuation, we consider ourselves stakeholders in this docket. The League welcomes the initiation of this docket as part of protecting and promoting community access television. We offer the following comments. 1. The scheduling of proceedings, including the method to determine the order in which CAPs’ operations will be evaluated by the Authority and the number of formal reviews to be held each calendar year; Order
– We recommend either a review of Community Access Providers by cable company (e.g., all Cablevision areas serially, then Comcast areas, then Cox areas, etc.) or by configuration of community access delivery, i.e., company-owned CAPs that include town-specific channels, nonprofit regional CAPs that include town-specific channels, nonprofit town-specific CAPs, company-owned regional-only CAPs, and nonprofit regional-only CAPs. Number of reviews
each year depends on the scope and frequency determined. See also comments on items 3 and 7. 2. Specific recommendations regarding the scope of and guidelines for the Authority’s review of CAP operations; Scope
- Include a review of interconnection agreements with certified competitive video providers, pending or existing. Differences among the agreements should be examined and explained: for example, whether return lines are provided by the competitive video provider so that the CAP can ensure high quality transmission signal to subscribers.
- Require the provision and review of a CAP mission statement, similar to the review used by a public school district before its accreditation process. This might provide some basis for evaluating how various CAPs provide community access television.
- Seek explanations for the different standards and methods for different areas set by past DPUC decisions (e.g., why town-specific programming is allowed in one area but not another; how town-specific PEG support is distributed to individual towns).
- Review whether a CAP also provides access out in the community (e.g., mobile production vans or loan of equipment for remote recording of community events) in addition to the investment in a commonly-shared studio space.
- Review the CAP’s equipment inventory and suggest whether update is advisable. Determine whether a CAP requires guidance in making a PEGPETIA application. See also the comments on item 3.
: As in all things governmental, transparency is desirable. If site visits are part of the review, open them to the public as an educational opportunity for the community. 3. Frequency of the Authority’s review of each CAP operations; Frequency
– As the process is developed, we expect the first round of review to take longer than subsequent reviews; consequently, we anticipate fewer CAPs to be reviewed in the first years. Once a regular process is in place, frequency depends on the scope of the review. At the current rate of technological development, computer and video equipment start to become outdated within 3 years If part of the review process is to see how CAPs stay technologically current, a review every 3 years for each CAP is reasonable. 4. In the absence of franchise renewals, what, if any methods are appropriate to review and amend CAPs funding levels other than the annual CPI proceeding required pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §16-331a(k);
Major changes in the number of subscribers or in the number of users at an access center might indicate a need to raise the funding level—to maintain a basic service or to increase service hours to meet demand.
Smaller CAPs—those with relatively few subscribers spread over a wider geographical area or the nonprofit town-specific CAPs—may need more funding to adequately serve all the potential users in its area. Heavy traffic or long distance to a central studio may deter potential producers. 5. Whether programming can or should be made available to a larger audience (including that from other towns) and in different ways (e.g., ideas and/or technologies to enable town-specific programming);
During our study of these issues, the League did not form a position on town-specific vs. regional programming, recognizing that there is value in both.
We are aware of discussion about PEG programming being available on the Internet, so that it is available to those who do not subscribe to cable or video service. If this is part of the CAP review, separate funding support for Internet provision should be ascertained.
We strongly maintain that Internet availability of PEG programs should not eliminate the provision of community access programming on cable or video service. Not only is the provision of community access television programming just compensation, in part, to the public for commercial use of the public rights of way, but broadband Internet—required for adequate video transmission—is not available or affordable to everyone.*
PEG programming—especially local governmental programming—is popular with the older population who usually have TV but sometimes have no Internet service at home. It is widely known that senior citizens are active voters and so are particularly interested in local governmental television programming, where available.
If this Authority decides that any form of wider dissemination of programming is desirable, attention should be given to potential financial burdens on a nonprofit CAP. 6. The use of Public, Educational and Governmental Programming and Education Technology Initiative Account (PEGPETIA) funding for CCFAs and CVFAs to enable more town-specific programming;
We suggest that this be considered as an application by the appropriate nonprofit CAP. If the CAP is company-owned, the appropriate advisory council (local or statewide) might apply. To ensure a level playing field among CCFAs and CVFAs, PEGPETIA should not be used to build connections that have always been the responsibility of incumbent cables, such as paying the costs of lines to a head end or return lines for monitoring the channel signal. Any encoding equipment needed to make programming transmission should also remain the responsibility of the companies. Using PEGPETIA for those purposes diverts funding from the purpose of PEGPETIA which is improving and producing more PEG programming.
If this Authority determines that providing more town-specific channels encourages people to produce more community access programming overall, then use of PEGPETIA should be explored. 7. Any other issue to assist the Authority to ensure that community access in Connecticut is managed and operated consistent with applicable federal and state law and regulation, efficiently and in the public interest.
- A review process should also be instituted for the cable and competitive video providers, as has been outlined in bills for the past three legislative sessions. Although our concerns are mainly addressed through a review of CAPs, many concerns are inextricably intertwined with industry developments in the aftermath of PA 07-253. Is new pricing, digitalization of channels and additional equipment requirements driving people from subscription to cable or video? Are more people turning to the Internet for their video? This reduces the contributing audience for any CAP and adversely affects their basic operational funding. For these reasons, we believe periodic review of the industry is also very important.
- A revision of the Annual Report form for CAPs may be in order. As the Secretary of the State’s Commerce Division provides for First Report and subsequent Annual Reports, this Authority might consider a full Three-Year Report form and subsequent less-detailed, follow-up annual reports (e.g., asking, “Have there been any significant changes in your facilities or equipment inventory?”). Simplifying the report form would encourage more timely reports.
- Applicable federal and state law and regulation are obscure and confusing to the average citizen/consumer, even to local cable advisory councils. Similarly, the process of DPUC/PURA dockets is cloaked in the jargon of the legal profession and of the specialty language of technicians. The public would be well served by a program or document that clearly explains the procedures used by PURA in its work, similar to CT-N’s short video, How to Testify at a Public Hearing. If the Statewide Cable Advisory Council were appointed, it might be asked to develop such a project. One of the basic principles behind the League of Women Voters’ support for open government is the citizens’ right to clear information. Or, as phrased by the Center for Plain Language, “Plain language is a civil right.” (http://centerforplainlanguage.org)
Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on this docket and to express our support for community access television, an especially important part of the League’s work during election season.
League of Women Voters of Connecticut
1890 Dixwell Avenue, Suite 203
Hamden, CT 06514-3183
203-288-7996 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org * LWVCT position on Universal High Speed Internet Access for Connecticut The League of Women Voters of Connecticut supports making high speed Internet access available to all Connecticut residents, without charge, through schools, libraries, and other secure public buildings. High speed affordable Internet access is an essential service that should be readily available to all Connecticut residents and businesses. State and local government policies should support broadband, wireless, and other means of high speed Internet deployment throughout the state. Efficient, high speed access to the Internet for all Connecticut residents—regardless of geographic location or neighborhood demographics—is a necessity for assuring equal access to local and state government, for maintaining openness and transparency in government activities, for communicating with legislative leaders, for engaging in political discourse, for competing in the global marketplace, and for assuring that voters receive the information they need to participate in our democracy.
Please contact your state Senator and ask for support of HB 6458. The House passed this bill without opposition and with bipartisan support on June 4.
In 2006-07, League members in Connecticut studied several issues surrounding electronic media —net neutrality, broadband internet availability and community access television. Like the print media at our nation’s founding, these venues for expression and information are vital to open government and citizen information.
Among the positions we adopted is: The League of Women Voters believes that community access television channels — for public, educational, and governmental programming [PEG] — must be adequately protected, promoted, and funded, regardless of the provider of TV/video services to Connecticut residents.
HB 6458, as amended by House Amendment Schedule A, requires regular periodic reviews of cable TV and competitive video providers to ensure that they are complying with the terms of their certificates. It also addresses funding and budget issues related to community access television. Without some kind of regular agency review of this industry, we cannot gauge the unintended consequences of the new "competition" before public interests come to harm.
Some PEG operations have been told not to use the “per subscriber” PEG support funds for labor expenses, although there is no explicit prohibition in state law. Others lost funding on which they regularly depended before 2007. Both situations are remedied by this bill.
Local chapters of LWVCT depend on their local PEG channels to get their forums and debates to the wider public. Our missions — to educate the public on local issues — are closely related. This is the third year that a bill for Periodic Review has been brought before legislature. It is time to pass it now.
Please call your Senator and ask to have HB 6458 called and passed before the end of this session.
Democrats: (800) 842-1420 or (860) 240-8600
Republicans: (800) 842-1421 or (860) 240-8800
Thank you for your help at this very busy time of year.
Pua Ford, Media Issues Specialist
Public Issues Team
League of Women Voters of CT
CGA Energy and Technology Committee - March 3, 2011 Public Hearing
Comments by Pua Ford, Media Specialist, Regarding RHB-6460 AAC Public Access Channels and Support for RHB-6485 AAC Periodic Review of Video Providers
My name is Pua Ford. I am the Media Issues specialist for the League of Women Voters of Connecticut. On behalf of the League, I thank you for the opportunity to comment on the above-referenced bills.
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut believes that community access television channels must be adequately protected, promoted, and funded, regardless of the provider of TV/video services to Connecticut residents. Government should provide opportunities for citizen participation in decisions regarding community access, or PEG, TV. HB 6460
attempts to address various local problems stemming from two common issues: (1) community access television groups all continue to need more funding and (2) there is a problem resolving control issues between town-specific and regional access entities.
- Sections 1 & 2 are based on 2008 legislation illustrating both those issues. The League has no comment on these sections or on Sections 5 and 6.
- Section 3: We would like to see clarification of this section. Any company providing video services still owes a per subscriber fee for the support of PEG operations whether they choose to pass that cost on to subscribers or not and whether or not they are interconnected to PEG channels. Relieving the competitive video service provider from collecting those fees should not relieve them from paying the accrued fees once there is an interconnection agreement. It has been almost three years since most good faith negotiations between video providers and incumbent cables commenced. There should be some language to force them to conclusion, especially because funding to smaller, town-specific organizations is held hostage during extended negotiations. Suggested substitute language is attached.
- Section 4: Although there is a universal need to fund labor and staff, it would be better to make sure these costs are allowable through the regular community access grant programs like those administered by the cable advisory councils in the two southern Cablevision areas, and as described in Section 2 of this bill.
came before the Committee in other forms during the past two years. With the entrance of internet protocol television and the passage of PA 07-253, there has been no regulatory check on video/cable television services. Among other problems, this hands-off situation leaves community access television centers vulnerable. If periodic reviews were in place and if the DPUC were committed to addressing this area of service, some of the problems that underlie HB 6460 might have been resolved. The League views HB 6458 as a key piece of legislation whose passage and implementation cannot wait another year. Please give this bill your full support.
Again, I thank the Committee for the opportunity to comment on these issues today on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut.
Pua Ford, Media Issues Specialist
League of Women Voters of Connecticut
Suggested substitute language for HB 6460 – AAC Public Access Channels, Sec. 3
Suggested substitute language for HB 6460 AAC Public Access Channels, Section 3