Other good reasons why community/public access television must be protected

Public Access / Community television works in part to protect public space for of all be it video to be shared on cable or on line and to ensure that municipalities have the opportunity to discern and negotiate with cable and broadband providers to meet the needs of their own communities through a proper and transparent ascertainment process. The following are two of many good reasons to support the work of public access stations and to stand tall for assurances to continue these valuable resources. There are well over 100 public access centers in Massachusetts and those are also being threatened by potential harmful changes in legislation that would restrict citizens from benefiting from public access. While these changes would favor phone companies it would severely limit a municipality’s capacity to ensure community media needs are met. In exchange for such limits, the phone companies would reap huge profit benefits while leaving the people, as some studies have shown, with no changes in competition, no improvements to customer service or rates, and no public access community television channels.

As a result of such threatening legislation, nearly 150 Community Media/Public Access Centers as members of MASSACCESS, in Massachusetts, are opposed to a Verizon supported bill expected to be given a committee hearing in the State House on May 18th.

WCCA TV joins these centers in strong opposition of Senate Bill S1687. This Bill is as yet another attempt to introduce legislation, which would limit the timetable and ability of cities and towns to negotiate fair cable contract terms.

It is notable that Verizon has been able to obtain cable licenses in 110 local Massachusetts communities in only a few years, which demonstrates that the current franchise system works.

Many communities acknowledge that Verizon has been a responsible cable provider and has supported the local Community Media Center; however, these communities oppose changes to the existing legislative framework that has been so vital in ensuring that all cable operators in the Commonwealth meet their social obligations to the state’s citizens, especially those preserving Public, Educational and Governmental (“PEG”) Channels to the state’s citizens.

We also feel that Verizon should be offering cable services and PEG everywhere in the state where it offers telephone services. Many of us in public access / community media are hard pressed to understand why certain major metropolitan areas have not been offered service, despite those areas expressing keen interest in having Verizon as a competitive cable provider.

A similar bill was first introduced in 2009 and never made it out of the Joint Committee on
Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Another bill to restructure cable licensing was
filed in 2007 and met a similar fate. This year’s version mirrors the 2009 Bill and it has found
its way onto the docket for the Telecom, Utilities & Energy Committee consideration.

On a second front the following report indicates how broadband providers are threatening residential broadband use by imposing limits as similar to recent caps experienced by mobile customers.

The following is cut and pasted as received from Ron Beacom,MCTV Network, City of Midland:

The days of all-you-can-surf broadband are vanishing.
AT&T this week began capping its Internet delivery service for broadband and DSL customers. The move comes 11 months after it placed similar caps on its mobile customers.
U-Verse — AT&T’s high-speed broadband, television and telephone network — now limits customers to 250 gigabytes of Internet usage each month. DSL users are capped at 150 GB. Customers who exceed the limits will have to pay $10 for each additional 50 GB.
AT&T moved in June to set pricing tiers for its mobile customers, offering light users a plan that maxes out at 200 megabytes. The company also sells a pricier 2 GB plan. AT&T remains the outlier among the three major wireless companies, though Sprint and Verizon Wireless are expected to follow suit with caps soon.

But AT&T isn’t alone in instituting restrictions on residential broadband usage.
Comcast , by far the largest broadband provider in the U.S. — also has a 250 GB cap, and Time Warner Cable experimented with a tiered billing service in some markets in 2008. Though broadband caps are a relatively new phenomenon in the United States, variations on Internet cap structures are quite common in Canada, Asia and in European countries.
AT&T’s caps will affect just 2% of its customers, the company said. The restrictions are necessary, AT&T maintained, because those in the top 2% use up 20% of the network’s bandwidth. The highest-traffic users download as much as 19 typical households, on average, which slows speeds for other users, AT&T said.
“Our approach is based on customers’ feedback,” said Mark Siegel, spokesman for AT&T. “They told us that the people who use the most should pay more, and they also told us we should make it easy for them to track their usage. We think our approach addresses these concerns.”
Siegel called the caps “generous,” and said that AT&T’s DSL customers use just 18 GB per month on average. The company didn’t provide similar statistics for its U-Verse high-speed Internet customers. Globally, broadband customers typically use 15 GB per month, according to Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO – News).
The caps are fairly forgiving. DSL customers would need to watch 65 hours of high-definition videos on Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX – News) to reach the limit, and high-speed customers would need to watch 109 hours.
Analysts see the move as a strategic one. AT&T, Comcast and many other broadband providers also sell cable TV service, which a growing number of customers are dropping in favor of video on-demand services like Netflix.
“This probably isn’t absolutely necessary,” said Vince Vittore, broadband analyst at Yankee Group. “It’s mostly a move to prevent customers from cutting off video services.”
Vittore believes Comcast and AT&T’s caps are indicative of what will become a larger trend in broadband services throughout the country.
Cisco recently forecast that video on-demand usage will double every 2 1/2 years. AT&T said its customers are using more broadband as data-intensive video services like Netflix become more popular. Video currently makes up 40% of all Internet traffic and will exceed 91% by 2014, according to Cisco.
Though typical broadband users don’t come close to approaching the caps now, the increase in average video consumption will undoubtedly cause a greater number of users to exceed their limits in the coming years.
That could force broadband providers to raise their caps in the future if customers begin to complain.
To head off a backlash, AT&T is sending customers alerts when they reached 65%, 90% and 100% of their data allotment each month. The company is also giving customers an undefined grace period before it charges them for another 50 GB. AT&T also is allowing customers to check their data usage online.
Still, data caps likely won’t sit well with those who have called for broadband providers to improve their infrastructure and service.
The Obama administration has harshly criticized the state of the country’s broadband infrastructure, noting that most other countries offer broader service with far faster speeds. The president even alluded in last year’s State of the Union address to a study in which the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked the United States 31st in median broadband speed.
As part of its National Broadband Plan, the FCC has set out to bring 100-megabit-per-second speeds to 100 million Americans.
Some Internet companies fed up with the state of American broadband are taking matters into their own hands. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG – News), for instance, is deploying a 1-gigabit-per-second network in Kansas City, Kan.


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