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Vernon Area Cable Advisory Council Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 7:00 pm Vernon Senior Center, 26 Park Place, Vernon, CT Meeting Minutes (live broadcast on Channel 17) 7:00 pm: Special Hearing 1.) Call to Order, 7:00 pm by Chairman, Carl Slicer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. 2.) Special Hearing: Overview of Conn. Public Act 07-253, AN ACT CONCERNING CERTIFIED COMPETIVE VIDEO SERVICE presented by Consultant Attorney Wyland Clift of STEEG & CLIFT, Bristol, CT.
– Telephone/cable regulations overview – formally no competition however, the regulations that have been put in place by the DPUC to monitor customer needs, issues, complaints has drastically changed things over the years so currently, there is much more competition – the ‟84 breakup of AT&T is a good example of how things change in a competitive playing field.
– In 2007, Conn. Public Act 07-253 was enacted creating video competition.
– What we have is another sweeping attempt at competition with a new range of details and pressure on cable & video companies to address the needs of consumers – as such, consumers have more choices.
Carl Slicer: FYI, Comcast contract expires in 2010. in July of 2007, Comcast filed intent to renew however last Fall „07, Comcast rescinded their intent. Applied for a “Video Certificate Franchise” & was granted December 2007.
– A lot of other regulations aren‟t addressed which raises questions – much still needs to be determined.
– New provision in the law that talks about commitment, i.e. who is going to continue paying for third parties, i.e. public television, PEG, etc.
– From 07-253, Funds which are intended for educational purposes – other individuals can then apply for grants. It‟s a well-intended and interesting program.
3.) Citizen Forum: Citizen Question: One to two years out, what is the bottom-line for CVC in terms of going forward? Attorney Clift: The law mitigates that the funds still be available.
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Citizen Question (Rep. from Statewide Video Council): Since the Statewide Council only meets twice a year at most, this gives us little time to get acquainted and learn the state regulations – do you have any recommendations on council mergers, etc. Attorney Clift: I do see a section in the law regarding the Statewide Video Council. Admittedly, there is not a lot of funding but making good choices of appointments is a good start. The DPUC should put forth a better definition which is the biggest problem. In the past, workshops have been conducted and should be continued. Basically, you just need to work with the best people and resources that you have available to you. Citizen Question: The Water Company is monitored by DPUC – why don‟t we have that for cable companies? There is nothing for consumers which equates to an unfair monopoly. Carl Slicer: There is competition between AT&T and Comcast so that one-time monopoly isn‟t necessarily there any longer – things are changing and with new approaches. Currently, Comcast is providing many services some of which are at zero cost to consumers. Attorney Clift: Monitoring cable companies‟ activities is an important role that your Advisory Councils can handle. AT&T REPRESENTATIVE: (Abigail Jewett, ATT, Hartford, CT office) Currently, AT&T is within seventy-plus towns in Connecticut including parts of Andover, Hebron and Vernon. Distance limitations are varied but consumers can check online to determine AT&T availability in their areas. Carl Slicer: How do you select a town to provide – what is the basis? AT&T Rep: AT&T strives for the most number of households. Carl Slicer: Regarding these online inquiries – do they go to a database? AT&T Rep: There is less emphasis on inquiries vs. reaching as many households as possible. Carl Slicer: Has AT&T run into any reformatting difficulties? AT&T Rep: No problems reported. Citizen Question: What does AT&T physically have to do to get cable up and running? AT&T Rep: AT&T can either re-use co-axial wires or re-wire at no cost to the customer. Citizen Question: What are you using for databases to check AT&T availability?
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AT&T Rep: Existing fiber optics is the most helpful tool. COMCAST REPRESENTATIVE: (Dan Glanville, Berlin, CT office) Comcast continues to embrace healthy and friendly competition. Comcast will also comply with all state and federal regulations along with privacy standards. Comcast will continue to provide PEG funding along with working with town and state advisory councils especially regarding customer complaints. Carl Slicer: Are you happy with the new law” Comcast Rep: As long as there is a level playing field, Comcast still welcomes competition. Carl Slicer: Why did Comcast abandon its original request to re-new contract? Comcast Rep: For now, we‟re proud to say we‟ve successfully built-out our franchises and are always looking for new growth opportunities. Citizen Question: Does Comcast support senior citizen discounts across the board? Comcast Rep: Would support continuing discussion; unsure about statewide across-the-board discount due to economic fluctuations, i.e. Enfield vs. Vernon. Ross Gepfert, VACAC Rep: Why not standardize? Comcast Rep: This should be a “needs-based” ideology. Carl Slicer: “Some things will change, some won‟t” is confusing. Hopefully, all aspects of competition will bring back fairness to the senior citizen discount ruling. There should be a closer playing field, say one year from today. 4.) Recess: At 8:15 pm, Chairman Carl Slicer brought the Special Hearing to conclusion, followed by a 15-minute break. Regular Hearing: 1.) Call to Order and Attendance: 8:30pm. Present: Carl Slicer, Chairman, Ellington Representative Paul Batterson, Tolland Rep. Ross Gepfert, Vernon Rep Justin Wain, Ellington Board of Ed. Chris White, Tolland Board of Ed Absent: Elaine Burchardt, Andover Rep William Guzman, Tolland Board of Ed
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2.) Citizens Forum: Jason McCoy, Mayor of Vernon, thanked the VACAC for their continued work. 3.) Approval of November 2007 Meeting Minutes: MOTION/Gepfert to accept the 11/07 Meeting Minutes, SECONDED/Batterson; Motion passed with Chris White abstaining from the vote. 4.) Papers Being Warned: “Hartford Courant” was warned by Comcast on 2/22/08. VACAC also ran ads in the Reminder Press, Journal Inquirer & River East. 5.) Comcast and AT&T approved by DPUC under PA 07-253, December 2007. 6.) Old Business: Comcast return line updates provided by Dan Glanville of Comcast: Marlborough School: completion due 6/27/08 – on track. Andover Town Hall: completion due 3/06/08 – on track. Ellington High School: currently suspended due to weather but on track for Spring ‟08. (Letter was sent to Comcast to install by April 2008) Vernon Town Council live: December 18, 2007, 7:30 pm, Channel 17. November 2007 Meeting Minutes filed with 7 town clerks, 7 Boards of Education, Rockville Public Library and Community Voice Channel. 7.) CVC “Project Wireless” – Wireless coverage @ RHAM Athletic Field: due to unexpected costs, this project has turned into a budget expense line item with RHAM. CVC will continue to approach other schools about wireless. 8) New Business: UConn Huskies home games NOT on Comcast: Dan Glanville stated that Comcast continues to offer robust sports coverage and that Comcast advocates ESPN to carry these games vs. carrying on another channel. Annual Comcast survey from 2007: Dan Glanville: States survey completed – VACAC should have results before the next meeting, April 2008. Introduction of new council members: The next VACAC Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15, 2008, location to be determined. MOTION/Gepfert, SECONDED/Batterson to adjourn the VACAC Meeting at 9:15 pm; Motion unanimously passed.
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Carl H Slicer, Chair Minutes submitted by: Brenda Copithorne, Recording Secretary February 26, 2008 __________________________________________________________ Calendar 2008: Tuesdays at 7:00pm 4/15, 6/17, 9/16, 11/18 & 12/16/2008. Calendar was submitted to all 7 town Clerks 11-19-07.
– Basic Cable service: Carl Slicer asked about Comcast‟s different packages with basic cable being apprx. $12.00 per month (23 channels) and reminding everyone that senior citizens do receive a discount.
The Vernon Area Cable Advisory Council represents the towns of Vernon, Andover, Bolton, Ellington, Hebron, Marlborough and Tolland for the purpose of overseeing the franchise agreement relationship of the “Vernon Area” agreement with Comcast Cable Services. Information can be found at: www.Vacac.org . The following authorities have positions open on this council as of Feb 2008: Vernon Town Council has 1 positions open & Vernon Board of Education has 1 position open. Rockville Public Library has 1 position open. Tolland Town Council has 1 position open. Bolton Bd. of Selectman has 2 positions open & Bolton Board of Education has 1 position open. Andover Board of Education has 1 position open. Ellington Bd of Selectman has 1 position open. Hebron Bd of Selectman has 1 position open & Hebron Board of Education has 1 position open. Marlborough Bd. of Selectman 1 position open & Marlborough Bd. of Education 1 position. Please refer to Conn State Regulations 16-333-25 under appointments.