Open Letter to Municipal Leaders

Greetings Municipal Managers, station managers and staff,

The possible loss of franchise fees seems difficult to comprehend after years under the present system, set up by Congress in the Communications Act of 1984 as a rental fee for the use of the public right of way for commercial enterprise by the cable operator. The majority (3) Republican commissioners at the FCC have rendered a “broader” interpretation of the Act which allows Cable operators to count ANY PEG services such as free cable drops to municipal or school buildings and any equipment or bandwidth provided to the municipality as part of the 5% franchise fee cap. Regardless of how your municipality uses these funds, their loss will place an additional burden on taxpayers.
The following is a well researched article that explains the ramifications of the FCC ruling for Colorado municipalities and their local channels if legal challanges or Congressional action fails to prevent it from taking effect. Much the same applies here in Maine.
Several members of Congress have written to FCC Chairman Pai (see attached Markey letter), Representative Pingree has co-authored a letter of opposition (also attached), Senator King plans to do likewise, Senator Collins and Senator Golden have only recently been contacted with no reply as yet.. I would urge you to make your Congressional representatives aware of your thoughts about this ruling by the FCC. If you wish to write to the FCC directly, a sample letter is attached for your reference.
The FCC comment period has passed, however comments for proceeding 05-311 are still being accepted and you can file yours here:
Over 9,000 comments have been filed in this proceeding to date, you can view them here:
Any significant updates will be issued and as always if you wish to be removed from this list, please reply with the word “Remove” in your first line of text. So far, none have been received!
Thank you for your interest and support.
Tony Vigue
Former President of CTAM

This is an excerpt from a letter to the editor by CTAM former president

Unhappy with Spectrum? You are not alone. If you are a Charter/Spectrum customer, since November, you have most likely seen an annual price increase of 12% on your basic cable rates, not counting increases in internet and box rental fees. According to news reports

and the Los Angeles Times,
Spectrum will increase its “broadcast TV” fee, which subscribers pay to access local network broadcast channels, from $9.95 to $11.99, (more than 20%), on March 1st. This shouldn’t surprise cable subscribers but this increase comes just four months after the same fee was increased from $8.85,regardless of what you were promised when you signed up for your package deal. The inflation rate for all of last year was 1.9%.

But wait, there’s more, if you have the Charter Silver or Gold package, 13 Cinemax movie channels plus on demand will be removed from your channel lineup in February according to a recent notification from the company

https://www.satelliteguys.us/xen/threads/want-cinemax-on-charter-show-them-more-money.380340/ (which does not indicate an accompanying price reduction). When contacted, the Charter CSR said there will be a $5.13 reduction, however Cinemax, as an a la carte offering, is an additional $15.47 a month.
The August 2018 cover story of Consumer Reports stated, “Dear Cable TV, You’re Fired”
https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2018/08/index.htm
and the story outlined alternative ways to watch TV. These continuous insults to consumers, non-compliance with State Statutes, coupled with the recent disregard for local municipal, school and public access programming by “Slamming” the local channels up to the 1300 block (so they can rent those lucrative single digit channel slots to shopping networks) has prompted the Community Television Association of Maine into action. While federal and State laws prevent price regulation, legislation will soon be announced to protect consumers in other areas while benefiting the municipalities that big cable operates in. Stay tuned.

CTAM + CMMA at KVCOG

The Community Television Association of Maine (CTAM) is presenting a workshop at Kennebec Valley Council of Governments (KVCOG), 17 Main St, Fairfield, Maine 04937, on February 4th, 2019. The featured speakers will discuss a Legislative initiative to regulate Big Cable as well as inform about the recent FCC Rulings that will reduce Municipal revenue, and potentially begin costing towns millions of dollars. Attendees will be guided through The Cable Franchise Renewal Process and will discover how having a Central Maine Media Alliance (CMMA) Media Hub in their municipality can enhance community outreach, promote municipal identity, and be pivotal to economic development. The expert panel is comprised Tony Vigue, former president of CTAM; Michael Edgecomb, Cable Franchise and Broadband Consultant; Randy Visser, Sales/Engineer Tightrope Media Systems; “Twinkle” Marie Manning, Director of Development of the Central Maine Media Alliance (CMMA/SVTV);  and JP Fortier, Executive Director of CMMA & Mt Blue TV Station Manager. (pictured right to left) For more information: www.ctamaine.org  www.CMMA.me 

What’s the Good News?

Regardless of what happens at the FCC and state level, proactive Towns with healthy municipal leadership can work with our PEG Media experts to develop a business plan that will not only enable the existence of viable PEG channels for your residents to access, but also create enormous economic development enhancements and sustainable community outreach and engagement methods.

SVTV/CMMA will be hosting a number of public forums and community meetings throughout Central Maine beginning in 2019 regarding this.

In the meantime, we encourage everyone to offer support to Senator Woodsome regarding the upcoming non-discrimination Maine State Bill that will protect residents and municipalities from cable company’s unethical practices.

FCC ruling could financially cripple municipalities

What this video leaves out is that the cable companies will also be able to begin charging municipalities for the infrastructure they place to deliver cable/internet/broadband/etc services to the municipality, which the cable company gets to determine what the cost for such services is. This means cable companies could charge way above and beyond existing franchise fees and operational funding. We hope municipalities take note of this and begin supporting PEG Media and advocating for their municipality’s regulatory control of municipal rights of ways before its too late.  This type of corporate control being enacted by the FCC on behalf of cable companies can financially cripple towns reliant on franchise fee funding, and will compromise the more than 70 stations across Maine that are relying solely on franchise fees to operate.

CMMA has proposals for towns that will enable stations to thrive with or without franchise fees.  Contact us for more information.

https://www.mynbc5.com/article/new-fcc-rule-could-cut-funding-for-public-television-stations/25400372