Saturday, April 23, 2005

MC CCAC April '05 Meeting Highlights

The report from the April CCAC meeting will be blissfully brief. Most of the meeting was spent on organizational matters. New members were briefed on the old organization and a new organization and topics were discussed. In short, the CCAC discusses whatever it feels like discussing. If you want it to tackle something it is ignoring, speak to the members - or better yet, get yourself on the committee. It's generally not hard - people drop off and openings appear regularly although one of the recommendations before the council is to lower the number of members to 15. The current limit is 19 but for practical reasons (people are always dropping off and it takes 4-6 months to get new members appointed), the actual number is always less. So if the limit is lowered to 15, that probably means there will only be about 10 members. (Less if you count the ones who actually do anything.)

Comcast representation at the meeting was small. Tasha Tibbs, Comcast Public Affairs Assistant, was attending her first meeting. I asked her if a replacement had been found for all the recent losses (see previous blog) but she said no. I don't know who is doing all the work that Ellen Bogage and Lori Sherwood did but Tasha made it clear it wasn't her.

Lonni Moffett, representing Takoma Park, made a presentation on Takoma Park's use of the PEGs.

Margie Williams, MC Cable Office Program Manager, reported that one of the staff in the cable office had successfully started getting Verizon FIOS and reported that it was "twice as fast" and "the service is great."

Kernan Chaisson's report on the April 11 MFP's worksession on the Verizon Damage Control Team was essentially the same as what I reported here last week. Except that he used nastier words than I did. Or something like that. Kernan wasn't present so he had given his report in writing to the Chair. The Chair began reading it to the committee but actually stopped in the middle and refused to read a section of it explaining that the language that Kernan had used to describe the proceedings was just too inappropriate for him to say aloud.

Gosh, why don't I write that way?


Jane Lawton, MC Cable Office Administrator, reported that Comcast had appealed the County's rejections of the rate requests including the FCC 1235 (network upgrade costs) and FCC 1205 (regulated equipment and installation costs). So, unless someone backs down, both will be sent to the FCC for them to make the decision. The FCC 1240 (max regulated service rates) is still being discussed by the county and Comcast.

Jane reported that the county is looking into E911, in part because of numerous citizens calling the 911 centers to test VoIP connections. (See my report on testing E911.) The county believes that it can come up with a more efficient mechanism by working directly with the VoIP providers and MC's 911 call center. Makes sense to me.

Jane also noted that NATOA (National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors) is meeting here in the DC area this September. NATOA is the forum through which Cable Administrators such as Jane swap experiences in forums, explore new techniques, and generally learn how to do their job better by listening to their peers. Jane suggested that she might be able to get some passes for CCAC members to attend. The one thing I dislike about NATOA is that they don't make their publications readily available to the public. I think that's extremely shortsighted but it's probably more concerned with profit than advocacy. Oh well. Attending a NATOA conference sounds like a great opportunity. If nothing else, perhaps this opportunity could spur someone reading this blog to apply to serve on the CCAC!

Jane also reported that the MFP committee approved the Executive's proposed Cable Plan budget but only after increasing the budget. That's a little startling to hear after reading so much in the newspaper about the Council cutting the county budget overall. However, the Cable Plan has its own funding so it can afford the increase. Of course, it's ironic that the council's ability to budget more in cable franchise fees may only exist because the council isn't allowing other taxes to rise as much. So what does this increased budget buy? Another staff member for better web pages, streaming, legal fees, and transcripting. I think this is a good thing - money well spent. The Cable Office has an arduous task and does a helluva job. They've taken on a lot more recently and now, there's Verizon to contend with. The Cable Office staff deserves a budget for rubdowns and aspirin by the pallet.

Cable Compliance Commissions

Finally, the Cable Compliance Commission (CCC) is nearing the end of its life - the legislation that created it contained a sunset clause - and Councilmember Marilyn Praisner has introduced a bill to extend the life of the CCC. I wouldn't mind a few changes in the legislation but the overall idea is sound and it should be extended, particularly now that Verizon has entered the picture. I encourage you to support this bill as well as Councilmember Praisner and Andrews who were instrumental in the creation of the commission in the first place.

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