LD920 - An Act to Provide Oversight of and Competitive Parity Among Video Service Providers
Last Summer and Fall, Representatives of the Community Television Association of Maine, (CTAM) met with representatives of all the current cable television operators, video entertainment service providers, MMA, (of which CTAM is an affiliate), the PUC, ConnectMe, and the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) who chaired the meetings of these stakeholders.
The outcome of these meetings was a realization that the new entrants (TAM-TELCO’s) in the “video entertainment to the home” business were not interested in franchising individually with the towns. Instead, they preferred an automatic licensing “rubber stamp” from the Secretary of State (or no permissions at all, as is the current situation with Consolidated Communications) to sell their cable tv-like entertainment products over their lines that are using the public right of way, with no municipal contracts or compensation and few municipal and consumer protections or benefits. This gives them an unfair advantage over traditional cable tv operators who do hold individual franchise contracts with the towns.
CTAM outlined several solutions for providing new entrant parity with cable operators and retaining “home rule” while encouraging broadband expansion in the final report to the OPA which may be viewed on their web page at: https://www.maine.gov/meopa/reports-and-testimony#cable
Subsequent to that report, a group of folks who work with municipalities every day has developed legislation (LD920), "An Act to Provide Oversight of and Competitive Parity Among Video Service Providers.” http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?ld=920&PID=1456&snum=130
This proposed legislation has been reviewed by attorneys here in Maine and Washington, D.C. (Attorney Harold Pachios, Portland, Me; Spiegel & McDiarmid, www.spiegelmcd.com, Washington, D.C.) for legal compliance. They also kept MMA, The Connect Maine Authority, the Office of the Public Advocate and the PUC informed of their research and recommendations.
The bill is not a statewide franchise but does require new IPTV operators to obtain individual franchise agreements with each town, thus preserving home rule. It also requires both them and the cable operators (both now defined as Video Service Providers) to be licensed and “regulated” by the PUC as no State Agency has ever held a position of oversight of the cable and video to the home industry.
It also provides ample funding to the PUC for this new requirement, but does not describe the specific regulatory parameters as the PUC staff is best equipped to determine those requirements. It is hoped however, that some of the requirements contained in the Maine Model franchise and current municipal cable ordinances will serve as guidance for those rules. The primary purpose of this oversight function is to assist municipalities with non-compliance issues that often require technical, financial, and legal resources that are not available to them. The only options municipalities currently have in non-compliance issues is expensive litigation.
The Bill increases franchise fees to 5% statewide as of January 1, 2022, paid quarterly to the towns. It is important to understand that 5% of gross revenue may be used by municipalities to purchase equipment and retain staff to record and stream municipal meetings. In addition, it requires Video Service Providers to upgrade the fiber transmitters they own that are used to transmit those meetings to them instead of passing that cost on to the municipality.
The legislation also addresses the “exclusive method” section of Title 35A which exempts certain Video Service Providers from any other regulation relating to the public right of way.
Millions of dollars are leaving Maine communities, going to media giants that use the public right of way for commercial purposes. It may be the dusty side of the road where the pole lines are but under the law, it is the same as the public park where you would never grant this 10 or 15 year privilege to an entertainment industry. Those same lines may also carry phone and Internet services which Governor Mills recently called “as fundamental as electricity, heat, and water” and the “modern equivalent of rural electrification in the 1930s and the interstate highway system in the 1950s.” State level oversight of this infrastructure is essential to insure compliance with State and Federal laws governing all of these services.
Please watch and DOWNLOAD FROM VIMEO the above video on your PEG stations channels for public showing. If you would like to financially support CTAM's efforts in the on-going legal battle with NCTA and its cable company members, please consider making a donation through CTAM's GoFundMe page. CTAM is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
CTAM's GoFundMe Page
LD 1371 PASSES MAINE LEGISLATURE!
As of May 30, 2019, the Maine State House of Representatives and the Maine State Senate have both officially passed our bill without amendments and it has been signed into law by Governor Mills. Keep in mind it doesn’t become law until 90 days after the session ends, then the cable company has 60 days to comply after that which puts it out to the October-November time frame.
Following that, Charter (Spectrum) will be required to put the Community Television Channels back where they were 24 months ago and transmit them in HD if an HD signal is provided to them by the PEG originator. In addition, they will need to cable down to 15 homes per mile on all new cable franchises and comply with the other provisions outlined in the bill.
If your town is in the process of renewing their franchise, please make them aware of this so they don't sign the contract provided by Charter first which will not contain these important provisions.
Thanks to all who contacted their legislators and provided testimony at the EUT Committee hearings. Your support made the difference!
CTAM has produced a tri-fold brochure outlining the major points of proposed legislation to ensure the non-discriminatory treatment of PEG access channels by the cable operator. Please click on the graphic at the left to download a printable PDF of the brochure AND freely distribute it.
NEW VERSION UPLOADED ON 3-22-2019
Download or view . . .
Full Text of LD1371 in PDF Format (Revised March 22, 2019)
CTAM Press Release (3/21/2019)
Saco River Chronicles: Tony Vigue & State Senator David Woodsome from srctv on Vimeo.
Tony Vigue of the Community Television Association of Maine joins Senator Dave Woodsome of Waterboro for a discussion about recent actions taken by Charter/Spectrum Corporation and the Federal Communications Commission; actions that have potentially devastating consequences for community media channels here and elsewhere. New legislation here in Maine, sponsored by Senator Woodsome, if adopted, will benefit municipalities and consumers alike.
CTAM Presentation - PEG Channel Slamming by Charter Corp. from MBTV on Vimeo.
Charter moves community channels from srctv on Vimeo.
As part of their so called "encryption project" Charter (Spectrum) has begun moving many towns public access/community television channels away from the lower tier (where the channels are more easily found) to the 1300 series. This action will likely make it more difficult for consumers in your service area to locate local community television channels. If you would like to download either video for showing on your access channel, click the 'Vimeo' link in the lower right corner of the video to view the video on the Vimeo website. There you will find a download link.
Terri Wright, a CTAM member and Director of Berwick Community Television, talks about LR #130, a bill submitted by CTAM to the Maine Legislature - "An Act to Ensure Treatment of Public, Educational and Governmental Access Channels by the Cable Operator". Please click on the above image to view or download this video for showing on your community access channel(s).