News from the City of Reno's
cable consumer advisory panel

PLEASE NOTE: This unofficial website represents the views of neither
the City of Reno nor its Citizens Cable Compliance Committee.

Fighting City Hall

Complete contact info for mayor, council & key staff

Citizens committee gets rolling,
appoints working groups

Jan. 15, 2003 — The City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee held its second monthly meeting at Reno City Hall. Like the inaugural in December, this one was not cablecast but future meetings will be on Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT). Watch this website and the Barbwire column in the Sunday Sparks Tribune for news.

At the Dec. 11, 2002, meeting, the committee elected officers, naming Andrew Barbano as chair, Karol Gorman as vice-chair and Kate Marshall as recording secretary. Jackie Inman, Barbara Stone, Noel Thornsberry and Peter Padilla round out the panel.

On January 15, 2003, the panel heard from Liz Teixeira, Assistant to the City Manager of Carson City, regarding the role and responsibilities of the capital city's cable oversite committee. She advised the committee to stay focused on its objectives by keeping in mind our limitations under the law. Fred Fichman, Executive Director of The Media Center which runs Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT), updated us on his operations.

Marsha Berkbigler
, Charter Communications Director of Governmental Relations, provided an update about ongoing upgrades and construction of the area cable system. She also answered a wide-ranging set of questions from the committee and city staff and received several consumer complaints which the public had given to committee members. She said that she would personally handle all issues brought to her by the panel and committed to attend our future meetings. (A more detailed record of the committee's questions and her responses may be accessed in the official minutes. Also see Letters/FAQs.)

Mr. Thornsberry asked Ms. Berkbigler to present a complete package of Charter sales packages, billing and operational policies at the February meeting. She said she would do so. The February meeting was cancelled by city staff, circumventing the exclusive authority of the chair. Ms. Berkbigler failed to submit the documents in March and continued her refusal into the summer when the material was finally provided. Ms. Inman resigned from the panel, frustrated at Charter's stonewalling on consumer complaints and intimidating of her former Charter co-workers. At its June 11 meeting, the Reno City Council agendized appointments of replacements for Ms. Inman and Mr. Padilla, who resigned in May for business reasons. Business demands caused Mrs. Marshall to resign in June. All are missed.

UPDATE — Floyd Dean and Chuck Lanham were appointed to replace Ms. Inman and Mr. Padilla. On Oct. 8, the city council appointed Richard Barton, Ph.D., to replace Ms. Marshall. Dr. Barton declined for personal reasons on Oct. 16, 2003. John Barber was appointed in February, 2004.

AUGUST 20, 2003 — The Reno City Council unanimously enacted a new master cable ordinance which will be the underlying law driving cable provider franchise renewal. (MORE)

AUGUST 28, 2003, CCCC MEETING — Click on the previous link to read more about it. (Click here to read Reno News & Review coverage of the meeting.)

2003 MEETINGS — The committee scheduled its regular monthly meetings on the fourth Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Reno City Hall. We convened early on Sept. 25 at 4:00 p.m., but reverted to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 23.

The November and December 2003 meetings were scheduled on third Tuesdays (Nov. 18 and Dec. 16) because Thanksgiving and Christmas fell on fourth Thursdays —
days when we'd rather watch cable TV than discuss it. For agendas and recent minutes, go to the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee city website page.

NOVEMBER CANCELLATION — The Nov. 18, 2003, Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee meeting was canceled due to the illness of one member, time conflicts of others, and the fact that we were a member short for several months.

DECEMBER '03 MEETING — We carried the November agenda forward to Dec. 16. Click here to access the November/December agenda.

At the Dec. 16, 2003, meeting, Andrew Barbano was re-elected to a second one-year term as chair of the CCCC. Floyd Dean was named vice-chair and Karol Gorman moved from vice-chair to recording secretary.

[UPDATE 2-25-2004 — The Reno City Council appointed John Barber to the committee which will now be at full strength just in time for franchise renewal hearings. Any Reno resident wishing to serve in case of a future vacancy may contact City Clerk Lynnette Jones at (775) 334-2030 for an application, or apply via the city's website. ]

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Stay tuned and stay in touch.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano

Franchise Roulette
Reno plays it wrong, as usual

Council reviews one-year franchise extension
Citizens committee ponders new involvement
Sept. 24 & 25, 2003

Committee and consumers criticize city staff
Ask to monitor negotiations

     UPDATE: On Wednesday, October 22, 2003, the Reno City Council agendized two recommendations forwarded from the Sept. 25 CCCC meeting: the placement of a CCCC member as an observer in negotiation of a new Charter franchise agreement and permanent inclusion of purview over cable TV in the city manager's job description. The council rejected the first proposal 7-0 and amended the second to apply to the city's director of community relations. [[FOLLOWUP 3-30-2004 — Ruffled chickens came home to roost as the CCCC was pushed to review, receive public input and make recommendations to the council in just 14 days. When the final product was finally revealed, citizens committee concerns about the secret negotiations were proven justified. It foreshadowed the railroad job to come. See 2004 News.]]

The Right Way: San Jose vs. Comcast

     A 244-page legal brief filed by the nation's largest and most powerful cable company in its recent suit against the City of San Jose, California, reveals its profound indifference to the public good.
     San Jose's conditions for continuing its cable franchise include expanded public interest programming, community network access to the Internet, fiber-optic lines to serve the city, and compliance with living wage, non-discrimination and other social justice laws. Comcast in its brief rejects each of these requirements as a violation of its First Amendment rights.
     You can learn more about this case and what action to take at the Center for Digital Democracy website.

Charter Raises northern Nevada
basic cable prices by 13%
More than four times the rate of inflation

RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL (5-18-2003) — Charter Communications customers in Reno, Sparks, Fallon and Carson City will see a boost of up to 13 percent in their bills for basic or expanded cable services starting June 15. In mailings sent last week, customers are advised that basic cable rates will increase by 13 percent, to $14.01 a month. The cost of expanded basic is going up 8.4 percent to $29.98. And standard cable — a combination of basic and expanded basic — is going up 10 percent, to $43.99...

NEWSFLASH — Cold shower for ratepayers. Charter rate hike will go through unchallenged. Charter works the system, City of Reno goes beyond window of opportunity to review or fight Charter filing. --> MORE


Clinging to the Ledge 2003

Cable companies target consumers at the Nevada Legislature — Click here to fight back

PLEASE NOTE — The above page at Sen. Joe Neal's website has links and complete contact info for both the Nevada State Senate Committee on Commerce & Labor (SB 278, SB 429) and the Committee on Taxation (SB 492).

Retaliatory legislation introduced
Daily Sparks Tribune April 6, 2003 (updated web edition)

Pro-consumer cable bills killed
Daily Sparks Tribune April 13, 2003

UPDATE: Cable greed and lawmaker laxity come back to bite Nevada in the ass
The Wall Street Journal lists Nevada among state legislatures which passed anti-consumer legislation barring municipalities from providing cable and Internet services. Now, the wi-fi cyberchickens are expensively coming home to rue.
Wall Street Journal/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3-21-2006
The abovelinked article also appeared in the 3-27-2006 Reno Gazette-Journal business section
TOLJASO DEPT. — Sen. Joe Neal
, D-North Las Vegas, Barbara Stone and Andrew Barbano tried to repair the law in 2003, but Cox and Charter had too many people bought.
Read the rest of the whole sad story.


City of Reno and cable TV franchisees fail to comply
with law for more than a decade

City could have prevented cable complaints
by Anjeanette Damon, Reno Gazette-Journal
Sunday front-page lead story Feb. 23, 2003

Costly billing errors, rude call-takers, unreliable service technicians and disrupted programming. They also are the problems the city had the power to prevent. In a two-month investigation, the Reno Gazette-Journal found the city has failed over 15 years to enforce stringent consumer protection requirements called for by its franchise agreement with the cable company, now Charter Communications. Read the complete story...

Sidebar: Reno begins negotiations with Charter

It's an opportunity that comes around maybe once every 15 years in Reno — negotiating how the cable company should pay back the community for using the public right-of-way to run its lines. Read the complete story...

City Council receives report highly critical of Charter Cable operations

January 21, 2003 — The Reno City Council today received a detailed study on cable television community needs. The ascertainment was performed by Action Audits LLC of North Carolina under contract with the city as part of the Charter Cable franchise renewal process. Robert Sepe, Ph.D., of Action Audits presented the study to the council and responded to questions. SNCAT carried the council meeting live and recablecasted the meeting in its entirety on Thursday, January 23 and again on Sunday, January 26.

Report to Reno City Council says
Charter "failed on every level"

Reno Gazette-Journal 1-22-2003 (More news below.)

Executive Summary of City Consultant's Report


Citizens Cable Compliance Committee city website page

Archive of minutes at the city's website

Meeting Minutes of 3-27-2003

Meeting Minutes of 1-15-2003

Meeting Minutes of 12-11-2002

Cable Committee Scope of Authority

Reno City Council Resolution 6077
creating the Citizens Cable Committee

CCCC Bylaws

Letters from cable ratepayers/FAQs

2002 Archive

2004 News

Back to Cable Ratepayer Home Page

Back to top of this page

    Watch this website and Barbwire by Barbano in the Sunday Sparks Tribune and Thursday Comstock Chronicle for updates. Click here to request placement on our mailing list.

     Got a gripe? E-mail it to us. We're finding that use of e-mail expedites matters.* Click here to download the city's new complaint form. For info on the complaint process, download here. Both of the latter require Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you may download here. Let us know how your complaint is handled.

     Thank you.

* UPDATE: SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY — Stung by Cosmetic Cable Compliance Committee inquiries, the howling of city staff and Charter's cheapsuits, the city council quickly removed the committee's authority to intake and handle complaints.

The predictable result — When the generous new 15-year franchise was rubber-stamped on April 7, 2004, Councilman Dave Aiazzi was able to trumpet that only 14 complaints had been received under the city's vaunted new intake system. Despite months of repeated requests, city staff never provided any such data to the committee for review. At that same 4-7-04 meeting, the council refused to take action to better inform ratepayers about how to file a complaint.

Keep that positive spin coming in!


Reno Gazette-Journal Editorials

City should pull a Pontius Pilate and leave consumers on the cross

Reno Gazette-Journal Editorial 4-14-2003

Citizen panel could help with Charter franchise plan
especially in light of huge recent rate hikes
Reno Gazette-Journal Editorial 3-6-2003 and front page 3-5-2003

Cable committee is a good idea
Reno Gazette-Journal Editorial 9-14-2002

  Fifteen years is a long time. That's why the Reno City Council's vote last week to create a citizens advisory committee as the city considers the future of a cable franchise is a smart move. The franchise agreement Charter Communications holds to be the sole cable provider here is up for renewal, but before agreeing to another 15 years of service, the city wants to hear from you.

  Complaints about the cable company are not uncommon — from high prices to spotty service — and though some may be baseless, others surely have merit. It is the job of the citizens committee to help sort the facts from the fiction. It is their job to make sure the advisory group doesn't turn into a tool used by frustrated customers to exact revenge against the cable company...

                                      Copyright © 2002 The Reno Gazette-Journal


Consumer Reports
The Consumers Union Video & Cable information index

National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA)

A window into the fat bank account of a deregulated cable TV monopoly
Cox Cable vs. ESPN — down and dirty in Las Vegas
Vegas cable provider, ESPN taking contract fight public in Vegas
Las Vegas Sun 12-17-2003

Charter sued for creating household mold hazard
Carson City Nevada Appeal Sept. 14, 2003

Changing stations
What’s new after a year spent preparing to renew
Charter Communications’ franchise with the City of Reno
Reno News & Review Sept. 4, 2003

Utilities, cable and trash companies can pass through all taxes
They can even bill way up front

Las Vegas Sun July 27, 2003

Monitor cable TV provider if you want better service
Reno Gazette-Journal editorial July 18, 2003

Reno Council gets tough on Charter Cable accountability
Reno Gazette-Journal July 17, 2003

Dalton, Georgia, dumps Charter
Northwest Georgia Daily Citizen June 3, 2003

Timeline submitted for long-delayed
required switch to speedier system in Auburn

Auburn Journal June3, 2003

Auburn Council may give boot to Charter
Ending cable contract an option if upgrade timeline remains elusive
AUBURN, CALIF., JOURNAL (5-14-2003) — Auburn City Council members say
the community's sole cable television provider is in breach of contract
and they would like to discuss other options...

Texas cities want Charter to pay $4.7 million
FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM (5-6-2003) — Nine area cities plan to seek a total of about $4.7 million from Charter Cable because they say an audit shows that the company hasn't lived up to the customer service standards of its contracts...

Nevada consumer advocate bashes legislative cahoots
between cable and telephone giants

Las Vegas Review-Journal May 3, 2003

SEC Opens Probe Into Charter Accounting
NEW YORK (Reuters/New York Times 4-15-2003) — Charter Communications Inc.said on Tuesday the U.S. Securities and Exchange opened a formal investigation into the No. 3 U.S. cable operator's accounting, and said it accepted an offer from Chairman Paul Allen to lend it $300 million...

Censorship by Reno City Hall
City staff short-circuits first broadcast of cable TV consumer panel meeting,
wants this website taken down

City of Reno lifts censorship of TV program
Reno Gazette-Journal April 6, 2003

Reality TVA government meeting about Reno's cable franchise
gets too hot for television

Censorship lifted, single rebroadcast authorized
Reno News & Review April 10, 2003


Citizens fight corporate power and disinformation

Municipal Pugilism — Local government vs. big business

Charter fourth-quarter loss widens
Associated Press 4-2-2003

Cable bandidos up the ante
Daily Sparks Tribune March 30, 2003

Cox Cable jacks up Las Vegas area rates
Cable industry move to impose tax on satellite competitors revealed
Officials oppose public access channel
because community morality standard is too low

Las Vegas Review-Journal March 26, 2003

With friends like these...The industry & city hall
Daily Sparks Tribune March 23, 2003

Black Education Network sues ATT
Alleges discrimination over Nevada sale to Charter, retains Erin Brockovich's law firm
Associated Press March 4, 2003

Charter announces huge northern Nevada rate hikes
Reno Gazette-Journal March 4, 2003

City of Reno and cable TV franchisees fail to comply with law
for more than a decade, underserve and abuse ratepayers

Two major front-page stories
Reno Gazette-Journal Sunday February 23, 2003

Public ownership brings city 70 channels for $19 per month
High-speed Internet connection for $25 more
But Nevada law severely limits such opportunity. Two major stories

MSNBC/Associated Press January 27, 2003

Report to Reno City Council says Charter "failed on every level"
Reno Gazette-Journal January 22, 2003

You can even lodge a complaint against Charter at Charter's office
Daily Sparks Tribune January 12, 2003

2002 Archive

2004 News

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