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Latest CTAM Messenger Newsletter

News and Announcements

FCC Updates on Cable Franchising Rules

The FCC issued its draft Order on Cable Franchisingthis past Thursday, and we’ve been studying the proposal along with legal colleagues across the country.Here’s a quick look at what you should know:


The Order accepts the notion that cable channels are somehow “in-kind” support that can be counted against the 5% franchise fee cap in the Cable Act, but then defers any action on the matter because doing so would be difficult and harmful.This is a victory of sorts for our members, but ACM believes that this will leave the door open for cable companies to keep trying to diminish benefits that communities rightly deserve under the Act.


The Order also outlines what is and is not “in-kind” support, looking at what is “essential to cable service” a term that is not defined, nor is in the Cable Act.This will continue to cause problems across the country, where we will have to argue that Interactive Program Guides are “essential”.


It also limits the channel capacity local authorities can seek under the Act – underlining that local communities can only ask for “adequate” capacity – how many channels and whether they are HD is thus still up for contention at the local level.


The Commission did accept the idea that durable goods such as equipment used for operating PEG channels and producing content are actually capital.It seems crazy that we had to argue for close to a year for what any accountant or anyone who has actually run a business knows. But thanks to you and other members across the country we prevailed on this.


Perhaps the biggest loss for communities in the Order is the preemption of local governments from being able to tax telecommunications services provided by the cable industry even though the right of way is being used.This specifically seeks to defund local communities who have the ability under their state law to tax all telecom providers equally and now creates a disparity between cable and non-cable providers.


I use the example of a store that sells gasoline, clothing and soda pop– all of which may have a different tax associated with it.Taxing all these items doesn’t mean we are double or triple taxing the store.It just means the company sells different things which are still subject to local or state authority.This part of the Order seems to be an overreach by the FCC’s authority, and it probably will be challenged in court.


What’s Next?The FCC is scheduled to vote on the matter on August 1 and rules will be effective after publication in the Federal Register.Communities should still contact their members of Congress to make sure that final rules do not harm PEG channels and communities. In fact Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut just sent a letter with her concerns.The deadline for those comments is July 25.


We will be sending you a sample press statement you can use for local press, and you can find videos that can be used for distributionto the press or on your channels and social media on our website.Folks in Philadelphia put together a press conference on Fridaythat you can share as well.


We will also be working with municipal colleagues on ex parte meetings with the FCC in the next ten days to try to make final arguments about the rulemaking to see if anything can be altered to benefit communities.When the Final Order is published, we will provide you with analysis of how the Order affects your operations.Some communities that rely on Institutional Network run by cable companies,for example, will see harmful effects as operating costs will be counted against franchise fees.

Thanks again to everyone for your hard work in this process – it has made a difference!


Mike Wassenaar

President & CEO

The Alliance for Community Media

Ralph Nader Letter to the FCC Commissioners

The FCC has been an inert toady for the radio and television broadcasting industry, and the cable industry, for so long its obligations have become invisible to the general public. Apart from the FCC’s opposition to net neutrality in spite of the overwhelming public support for that policy, the FCC’s duties under the Communications Act of 1934—have been internally neglected, to say the least.

So let this letter be a strong plea for a period of FCC introspection by its Commissioners along with a renewed practice of holding public hearings around the country to listen to the people and respond to their concerns and expectation levels for the use of their public airwaves and the cable franchises awarded to cable companies . . .

Read the Entire Letter


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 will soon be on the way to the Governor for her to sign into law.

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!

An Act To Ensure Non-Discriminatory Treatment of Public, Educational and Governmental Access Channel

The CTAM Task Force has been working on the following bill to be introduced into the Maine State Legislature this fall. Among other things, it calls for PEG channels to be transmitted to the subscriber in full HD if that is the format received by the cable operator or NPO which operates the Access Center. Your support (including assistance in contacting your legislators)of the bill, yet to be assigned a number, will be appreciated!



This bill first amends §3008, the Ordinance Chapter 141 of Title 30-A to require all cable franchises to provide line extensions with a minimum homes per mile requirement not to exceed 15 HPM. This will have the effect of extending service to far more rural areas than can be accomplished in any other manner.

Second, this bill prevents “automatic franchise renewals” beyond the initial term of the franchise renewal period. Existing franchises with automatic renewals will be grandfathered but will now require a 36 month advance notification of expiration from the cable operator to the municipality.

Third, this bill includes a provision for “use and support” of PEG channels and requires that they be placed in the same numerical sequence location as the local commercial network broadcast channels.

Fourth, this bill updates the Maine Model Franchise paragraph and prevents the cable operator from refusing to modify or amend this model without the consent of the municipality as arrived at during negotiations.


This bill also amends §3010, the Ordinance Chapter 141 of Title 30-A regarding Consumer Rights and Protection as follows:

This bill requires all cable operators in Maine to carry Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) channels on the basic cable or video service offerings or tiers and such channels shall not be separated or moved numerically from other channels carried on the basic cable or video service offerings or tiers without the agreement of the local unit of government or the entity to which the local unit of government has assigned responsibility for managing PEG access channels (the PEG Originator), unless the change is required by federal law. In the event of transfer of the franchise license, the same channel numbers used by the incumbent cable operator shall be retained. This law shall be retroactive such that any PEG channels that have been moved in the past 24 months without the consent of the PEG Originator will be restored to their original location and number.

Secondly, this bill requires all cable operators in Maine to work with the PEG Originator to insure that the signal sent from the point of origination to the cable operator and delivered to the cable subscriber is of the same quality and format as originally created, without exception.

Third, this bill requires all cable operators to provide PEG operators access to the entity that controls the electronic programming guides in the same manner as the local broadcast channels if requested by the PEG Originator. Also, PEG channel designations will be displayed in a similar manner as other channels on the program guide.

Fourth, this bill requires all cable operators to comply with Franchise Renewal procedures in a timely manner without “automatic extensions”. Further, the cable operator cannot refuse to provide the municipality with required information to complete the renewal process.

Fifth, this bill requires cable television operators to provide a toll free number for PEG originators to call in the event of service problems related to PEG channels.


Click on the following link to view or download . . .

Full Text of Bill in PDF Format (Revised Feb 2019)


Charter/Spectrum Announces PEG Channel Number Reallocation

Several weeks ago, Charter Communications/Spectrum which provides cable television and internet services to some 98% of the town and cities in the State of Maine sent a letter to several municipalities they serve announcing changes to the long-standing channel allocation for PEG (Public, Educational, and Governmental) local access stations:

Charter Communications
October 13, 2017

Dear Municipal Official:

Spectrum is committed to providing our customers with the very best products, at the very best value. We have enhanced our fiber-rich network to enable us to offer the highest level of performance and innovation, which will allow our customers to enjoy over 110 HD channels.

Spectrum is also taking steps to further secure its network in the coming weeks. In our continued effort to keep you informed, we would like you to understand how these changes may impact your constituents.

On November 28, 2017, Spectrum will begin encrypting the channels on the Basic/Starter service tiers In your community. This will allow Spectrum to better maintain the integrity of its network and offer more enhanced features.

As a result, customers will be required to have a Spectrum Receiver on each TV in their home by November 28, 2017. Customers are eligible to receive equipment at no additional charge for a limited period of time, depending on their level of service.

If customers have an existing set-top-box, digital transport adapter (DTA), or retail device with a CabIeCARD on each TV, they should be unaffected by this charge. Please note that if customers have TV(s) without equipment issued by Spectrum, they will lose the ability to view channels. In order to get a Spectrum Receiver, customers can call 1-884-830-4787 to order a self-installation kit. We'll ship the kit directly to their home at no additional cost.

Shelley Winchenbach
Spectrum Communications
400 Old County Road
Rockland, ME 04841


In addition to raising concerns that cable television costs would be increasing due to the need for all viewers to have a set-top box or DTA for each television (even "smart-tvs" which could previously receive the lower channels and basic tier programming without add-on equipment) of even greater concern to municipalities and PEG stations was the attachment at the end of the letter. This was a chart showing (among other channel changes) that the local access channels (typically located on single digit channels would be moving to 1301, 1302, and 1303 respectively. No mention was made of other common access channel designations such as 120-1, 120-2 etc where many PEG channels were moved when Time Warner went digital several years ago. It is assumed that those would also move to the 1300 block.

In response, the Town of Bristol, Maine sent a reply which is published here with their permission:

Municipal Office, Town of Bristol, Maine
P. 0. Box 339 Bristol, Maine 04539

Shelley Winchenbach
Director, Government Affairs New England Charter Communications
400 Old County Road
Rockland, ME 04841

October 24, 2017

Dear Ms. Winchenbach,

Thank you for your letter to Municipal Officials of October 13th, outlining the changes to Charter Communications' cable television service in this community.

As a Town that relies heavily on Public Access Channel 7 to reach out to our citizens, and in particular to the elderly and housebound, we the Selectmen of Bristol wish to protest in the strongest possible terms to the change of Channel 7 to Channel 1301. This high number makes it effectively impossible to find the station by running through channels. Keeping the channel in the vicinity of our local broadcast channels allows easy access for all viewers.

We understand that you may consider channel numbering to be a technical matter between you and Channel 7, but we feel that this is a betrayal of the principles behind our new franchise award to Charter Communications for service to the Town of Bristol. We believe that such action would have been unthinkable by the former Time Warner cable prior to its acquisition by Charter and that it reflects poorly on your management's stewardship of the public monopoly you have been granted. We urge you to reconsider this decision.
Yours sincerely,

Chad Hanna

Paul Yates

Harry Lowd III


If your municipality or PEG station would like to join the protest, please contact the Community Television Association of Maine at info@ctamaine.org.



Important Information for Charter/Spectrum Customers and Local Access Stations

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. 

Respectfully Submitted,

Tony Vigue

Maurice Amaral

John Goran

Brian Knoblock

Larry Sidelinger


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


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!

Download Tri-fold Brochure

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.


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.


Download video of Terri Wright, Director of Berwick Community Television talking about bill submitted by CTAM to the Maine Legislature.

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).

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Community Television
Association of Maine
270 Main Street
Roberts Learning Center, Ground Floor
Farmington, ME 04938
E-Mail: info@ctamaine.org

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