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Uppity Wisconsin - Progressive Webmasters

« Why We Love Milwaukee | Main | Boots and Sabers 99.9% Correct »

February 23, 2007

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Brad Clark

As the Manager of Madison City Channel, the City's local government television station, I was disappointed as well by Tom's comments. How likely is it going to be that you will see an entire Madison Common Council meeting on YouTube anytime soon? Not very.
And it is of course true that Madison City Channel does stream (live and archived) all of the programming we produce (meeting coverage, candidate forums, public affairs programs, coverage of other special meetings, presentations and events) on our website at www.mcc12.tv, but we wouldn't be able to do any of this without the resources we have been entrusted with through the small fee that Madison Charter subscribers pay each month - a fee that was negotiated and voted on by local elected officials as being appropriate for Madison. It wasn't some arbitrary "one size fits all" fee determined on a statewide level.
Local franchising isn't broken. It doesn't need to be fixed. If AT&T is serious about providing competition to Charter in Madison they could come to an agreement with us VERY quickly. The City is not holding up progress. Let's go!

Stan Carpenter

Serving as a board member of Eau Claire's public access channels, Community TV (11 & 12), I see the current argument by the telephone companies as disingenuous. To claim they don't have the ability to offer service is bogus on it's face. Any company is welcome to come into a community and offer its service. That process includes dealing with the local governments on such issues as public access channels. What this proposed legislation does is remove local input and by cutting funding, opens up more channels for commercial (read $$$$) utilization. To claim the internet supercedes the need for public access ignores such a broad range of constituents and facts as to be laughable. Unfortunately, it makes a great sound bite.

On the other hand, in converstaions with small telecommunications company executives I have learned that local governments have created obstacles in the process of granting new service access to some areas. An example of this would be where a local government won't convene the appropriate committee, or demands unreasonable services or concessions of the company.

My point in bringing this up is that it's important to understand both sides of the issue so that a solution addresses the concerns of all the parties involved.

Mike Ryan

You know I hear all sorts of horror stories about cities making unreasonable demands in exchange for cable TV franchises. What I haven't heard or seen yet are specific, verifiable instances where that has happened.

John Foust

As a member of the cable commission in little Jefferson, WI, pop. 7,500, I too am disappointed by Still's comments. I can assure you that AT&T isn't helping us here so far. For years, only half of our town can get AT&T DSL. They cross the Rock River with fiber, so DSL copper technology doesn't reach half the city. I've never heard an explanation as to why they don't want to serve the other half of the city. Charter Cable does deliver high-speed throughout.

I welcome television competition. I'd like to think every company would be glad to carry our community's public access channels. After all, people watch them. They are true local content, unlike the disorganized international glut on YouTube. There are no commercial television stations that originate from Jefferson County. As I've darkly described it many times, you need to kill someone to get on TV around here. It's a rare day when a Madison or Milwaukee newspaper or TV station sends a reporter to Jefferson.

I get the feeling they won't want to carry our channels, though, unless required by law. Hundreds of channels plus pay-per-view, but no room for our city channel and our school channel?

Of course, what AT&T and all the other providers really want to avoid is the franchise fee. Charter pays 5% tax on gross TV (non-Internet) revenue to the City government, the full amount the FCC allows them to tax. Not all cities use this revenue to support their public access channels. The situation varies widely. In Jefferson County, I think Watertown gets about 70%, Fort gets 0%, Whitewater gets 100%. Our cable commission has spent three years pleading with the Council. Now we get approximately 10% for the channels we launched two years ago.

I don't think they want a level playing field - they just want to avoid this existing tax. Many cities are addicted to this easy revenue. In Jefferson, with perhaps 2,500 households, it's more than $70,000 a year. Charter would be happy to stop paying it, too. After all, satellite-based providers don't pay it. But this stream of tax revenue is how most public access channels are funded.

A few years ago, many providers were loaning communities money to capitalize their new channels. Last year, even Charter, with a monopoly in Fort Atkinson, refused to offer any loan (paid back by subscribers over time) to help them start a second channel.

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