Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dear Councilmembers: Support Bill 7-05

Here is the text of my June 14 testimony before the MC Council on Bill 7-05:

My name is Don Libes and I thank you for allowing me to speak today on behalf of Bill 7-05.

I strongly support this bill which will extend the life of the Cable Compliance Commission and provide consumer protection for cable customers.

Both cable video service and cable internet service are crucial to citizens in Montgomery County. Cable video service is required for PEG access. And cable modem service is the primary source of high-speed residential internet access, a service needed to telecommute, to reduce traffic, and to improve accessibility to business and education.

When your legislation originally established the Commission, Comcast was the dominant cable provider and generated numerous unresolvable complaints. Now the next largest provider of residential broadband, Verizon, is converting its regulated DSL service to unregulated FIOS.

As your own hearings have shown, Verizon FIOS is already generating complaints. Although the Cable Office is tracking some of them, the Cable Office lacks authority over certain types of problems. So the Commission is the final recourse citizens have to get relief. And that will remain so even when Verizon gets its video franchise here in Montgomery County.

Recall that during earlier hearings for the establishment of the commission, opponents of the legislation asserted that it was unnecessary, illegal, and so on. But in fact, the legislation has not been overturned and statistics show it is working for the community. Furthermore, it has not had a chilling effect on the providers. Just look at Verizon. Verizon selected Montgomery County as its first locality in all of Maryland in which to roll out FIOS. And Verizon representatives attended all of those hearings that led up to the commission. So they are well aware of and prepared to live with the existence of the commission.

Keep in mind the commission is not a problem to providers that offer quality service to all their customers. The commission is only needed when customers are not being satisfied and have nowhere else to turn. Statistics show that citizens are still depending on the commission. And we can expect this to be the case with Verizon as well.

Please do not let our cable providers off the hook. The number of cable users has increased since the commission was created. And the numbers are certain to grow especially with the rapid acceptance of video on demand, voice over IP, and other advanced technologies.

Cable remains an essential tool for Montgomery County citizens - even more so than when the commission was established a year and a half ago. The commission is an inexpensive yet effective way to provide consumer protection for cable customers. Please vote for Bill 7-05.

Thank you.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Extend the Life of the Cable Compliance Commission

As I wrote just three weeks ago, the county has an amazing track record for keeping citizens in the dark. This is proven yet again with the scheduling of a hearing on Bill 7-05 on June 14. I received notice of it only 5 days earlier! And I was at the most recent citizen advisory committee and it wasn't even mentioned. Yet somehow the county believes that citizens are encouraged to come and express their opinions on this bill!? What's wrong with this picture?

Bill 7-05

So what is Bill 7-05 and why should you be interested? Bill 7-05 extends the life of MC's Cable Compliance Commission. The public hearing on the bill is scheduled for June 14 at 1:30. The CCC has been a win for consumers and it would be a shame for it to go away. The council is listening. Please take this chance to express your opinions and support the CCC.

Note that Verizon's new fiber-based service (FIOS) also falls under the domain of the CCC.

If you would like to testify, please contact Delphine Harriston at 240-777-7931. You may also submit a statement by email: