1-15-2003 Cable Compliance Committee Minutes

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
4:00 p.m.
Reno City Hall
Room 212c


Present: Barbara Stone, Andrew Barbano (Chairperson), Jackie Inman, Peter Padilla, Kate Marshall, Noel Thornsberry, and Karol Gorman (arrived late).



The meeting was called to order at 4:10 p.m. with a quorum of six members present.


It was asked that the Room number be added to the draft minutes and they were approved as presented.


The following changes were made to the CCCC By-laws:

In Article II (1) the abbreviation "CAT" was changed to "CATV" to reflect the proper name, Community Antenna Television. The change was made throughout the document. During the discussion of this change, it was noted that the franchise contract encompasses all the services provided by the franchisee, including, but not limited to, broadband services.

In Article VII (2): line 3, the word "which" and the two commas around the word "which" were deleted.

In Article V (4): line 2, the word "at" was added so the sentence now reads, "A special meeting is held at a time...."

An issue was raised as to when public comments should be heard during a meeting. Currently, they are listed as the last item on the agenda. Chairman Barbano stated that public comment may be inserted at any time during the meeting. Flexibility is key.

A question was raised as to whether public comment can lead to interactive discussion with the CCCC. Jonathan Shipman stated that he would look into this issue. Chairman Barbano stated that the Reno City Council had a three minute rule, which was dispensed with when a citizen was asked to respond to a council members question.

It was decided that the by-laws do not need to be encumbered with detailed management rules. Jonathan Shipman stated that if the CCCC sought to amend the by-laws at a later date they would have to get the amendment approved by the City Council.

The motion carried to approve the by-laws with the above changes made.


Ms. Spangler provided the CCCC with available time slots for future meetings. They were:
      1st Wed. @ 2-6:30 pm,
      2nd Wed. @ 6 pm,
      4th Wed. @ 2-5:30 pm,
      4th Thurs. @7 pm; and
      2nd or 4th Mon. @ 6 pm.

A discussion was held as to what time would be best for public attendance. While meetings are ideally around 2 hours there is no scheduled end time. The fourth Thursday at 6:30 pm was chosen as the first choice and the fourth Thursday at 7 pm was chosen as the second choice.

Ms. Spangler was asked to determine whether the fourth Thursday at 6:30pm would be available, to check for alternative dates for November and December due to holidays, and to ask how SNCAT would slot the tape of the meeting for re-run. Ms. Spangler was also asked to email the response to the questions as soon as the information became available.

The Committee unanimously found that its meetings should be televised.


Ms Teixeira first presented a history of the Committee. She began by stating that the Carson City Citizens Cable Committee has been put on indefinite hiatus. At the time it was formed (1992) Carson City did not have PEG (Public, Educational, Governmental) channels. The Committee had seven members and began by looking at criteria for public access television. In 1992, the Cable Access Television Foundation was formed and granted a service contract to run the public access center. In April, 1993, the Carson City Board of supervisors changed the name of the Citizens Committee to the Carson City Television Committee, which operated under Nevadaís Open Meeting law. In 1996, the Committee was instrumental in getting PEG channels for Carson City up and running. At the same time, the City was in renegotiations of TCI's franchise agreement. The City entered an agreement under which TCI gave Carson City $300,000 to meet the capital costs of starting public access channels. This money was used primarily for equipment costs. TCI received a renewal of its franchise and the Citizenís Committee began to look at redefining its role. Administratively, the Citizenís Committee had less to do. By 1997 the Committee began to have a lot of turnover and attendance was sparse. In addition, members had a difficult time grappling with what issues it could legally address. The issue went to the Board of Supervisors and the Committee was put on hiatus in 1998. Ms. Teixeira suggested that the Committee stay focused and remain aware of what can and cannot be done by a Citizen's Committee.

The following questions were asked of Ms. Teixeira:

Did the Committee handle complaints? No, complaints were handed over to Ms. Teixeira, although a cable representative came to each meeting and was available to discuss complaints and their resolution. The cable representative was always the Director of the Cable Company, although the person who held that position may have changed from time to time. Ms. Teixeira found the cable company very responsive. Problems arose with rates and programming, which the Committee wanted to fix, but was without the legal authority to do so.

Did the Committee stay active with PEG issues? Yes, they stayed involved but could not attend contract negotiations between Carson City and the Cable Operator, which was a source of frustration for Committee members.

What are the Citizen's Committees allowed to do? They could take public comment and pass such comments on to the City Council. They could assist in ongoing tracking of complaints.

How are Complaints handled in Carson City now? Ms. Teixeira handles all complaints. On average she receives four to five complaints per month for a population of 53,000. Ms. Teixeira receives more complaints during network construction. Steve Wright commented that it was not unusual for there to be a single person handling all complaints for a city. Depending on the process it can be done well.

Who enforces the quality of service standards that the Cable Operator must adhere to under its franchise? Apparently, Charter has open records for review that the Citizens Committee may review. The CCCC does not have to look at summary materials, but can review original records.

Would Ms. Teixeira like to see the Citizen's Committee reinstated? If the Committee came back then I could see the Committee take public comment. Currently, Carson City is in renegotiation of its contract with Charter Communications. There is no draft of the franchise proposal at this time, but Ms. Teixeira agreed to send a copy to Ms. Spangler to be distributed to the CCCC when a proposal is available. One of the issues of negotiation is the proposed length of the contract.

What did you do, if anything, where three persons with the same complaint received disparate treatment? Ms. Teixeira did not know because she was unaware of the specific circumstances. However, whenever a complaint was received she would right it down and follow up with how it was handled and report to the Citizen's Committee each month on the previous 30 days of complaints.

Ms. Inman stated that the members of CCCC have all been put on a priority list so that when we call the call center with a problem then Charter is supposed to respond immediately. CCCC members will be considered monitors. The call in number is: 850-8555.

The CCCC would like to establish a relationship with Charter, the Reno Cable Operator to keep abreast of what the company is doing regarding performance and rates and service quality. To this end, the CCCC would like to make constructive suggestions to Charter.


Ms. Berkbigler began by providing information on the current network upgrade. She stated that all the nodes within the Reno City limits have been upgraded, but not all of them have been turned up. In areas, such as Stead the nodes may not all have been upgraded. The target completion date for the Reno upgrade is the end of March. All subscribers will be on the master head, which is a state of the art piece of equipment. Ms. Berkbigler commented that there are only five such master heads in the country currently running. Once the upgrade is complete, every town will have the same channel line up. The first community that will be on the master head will be Fallon in July, 2003. Reno and Sparks will follow.

The following questions were asked of Ms. Berkbigler:

Who decides what channels will be available in what price package? If it is above a BASIC package, the decisions are made by Corporate, although the local management may have some discretion. Ms. Berkbigler commented that the local Charter management has very little authority over programming packages and offerings because they have been addressed at the corporate level.

What do you do when there are so many senior citizen subscribers who cannot afford anything above BASIC? Charter is looking at a "skinny BASIC" — which will have the "must carry" channels on it such as CNN, the PEG channels, etc. Then, Charter will sell the digital product in subject groupings, such as a Sports Tier, a Spanish Tier, a Family Tier. Skinny BASIC will address those types of subscribers that want clear television reception, but cannot afford cable service.

Does the Cable network still provide analog service? The whole town has digital capability, but services may be presented to the subscriber in analog format. Analog BASIC is $12.34 and Extended BASIC is approximately $42/month.

Can Charter make a presentation to the CCCC regarding how the Cable network works, how packaging is done, etc? Charter can bring someone in to describe a generic network and what issues Charter sees coming down the road, but they will not provide information on packaging, pricing, decision making, etc.

An issue was raised regarding packaging and rate issues for senior citizens. Chairman Barbano stated that the CCCC would provide Charter with feedback on this issue, once the CCCC got a handle of how Charter did its packaging and set its rates. Ms. Berkbigler said she would be glad to take such input.

An issue was raised regarding disparate treatment of similarly situated customers. Ms. Berkbigler was asked how many customer service representatives are available per shift and whether they were given leeway in responding to complaints. Ms. Berkbigler stated she would get the information on number of customer service representatives. Customer service representatives are allowed to give a rebate for any service outage over two hours, but they are given discretion as to when to apply such rebate. Factors taken into consideration are: whether the customer has recently received a rebate, what level of service the customer is paying for (the higher the subscription, the greater the rebate because it is based on a percentage). Thus, if your Cable is out for a day, you may only get $1/credit if you pay $30/month.

The CCCC asked for a copy of Charter's rebate credit policy and would like information on how this policy is implemented so that it can be determined whether Charter is consistent in applying the credit policy.

Charter agreed to attend every meeting. Ms. Berkbigler also agreed to provide responses to CCCC requests to the extent she could do so legally.

Ms. Berkbigler stated that Charter was now offering Broadband data services to businesses within the City of Reno and Sparks. She did not know what, if any, expansion plans the company has.

Ms. Berkbigler stated that satellite has 20% penetration rate in this (City of Reno) market, while Charter has only 50% penetration. In the late 70-80s, the penetration rates were higher. Indeed, in the greater Northern Nevada market the penetration rate is approximately 65%. Three out of four consumers who are going to buy a programming service are going to buy satellite. Steven Wright stated that the City cannot legally tell Charter what it has to offer to its subscribers. The City can make recommendations and people can vote by taking Charter's service or going elsewhere. He believes the senior citizens should get together and go to their apartment manager and state that they want a change in service providers.

An issue was raised as to whether Charter does customer satisfaction reports. Ms. Berkbigler does not believe that a customer satisfaction survey has been done. They are generally done during cable franchise renewal by the City. In some franchise contracts such surveys are required once every three years. Ms. Berkbigler was asked about internal quality of service reporting regarding customer satisfaction. She stated that she did not believe there was any process in place to monitor quality of service. Steven Wright stated that he felt it was a good business practice to determine what your customers want. He mentioned that Cox has such internal reporting. Ms. Berkbigler stated that Charter did do it on the spot sometimes, but she did not know if there was a log kept of customer responses. Ms. Berkbigler was asked to provide an overview of what information is kept by Charter and in what format it is available on quality of service matters.

What is the procedure for Charter picking up a digital box if the customer requests termination? Charter has a seven day turnaround requirement in its franchise agreement. An issue was raised as to whether Charter was meeting this requirement.


Mr. Fichman presented the following information:

SNCAT cable casts channels 13, 16 and 17, the PEG channels. Channel 15 is a PEG channel but is not currently in use. SNCAT casts programs in English, Spanish and occasionally in other languages. They provide the production, facilities and manpower for the broadcast of government meetings, public programming, arts programming, and for producers who bring in their own programming. SNCAT allows private citizens to borrow equipment and make and edit their own programs. They provide technical advice to the City of Reno's consultant, Dr. Sepe. They also will be assisting Washoe County's consultant in its process of renewing its franchise. SNCAT has contracts with the cities of Reno and Sparks, as well as greater Washoe County. They provide independent production ability to Truckee Meadows Water Authority, Airport Authority, the Washoe County School district, and the Visitor's Convention Center. They will broadcast meetings for those entities. Some entities they will feed live, but it cannot be done where there is no insertion point or cable that ties back to SNCAT. If the CCCC wants to go live they will have to meet in the City Council's meeting room. The media center contract with Reno is coming up for renewal at the end of June. SNCAT would like to renew the contract and will have their annual report ready for a meeting with City Staffers.

The media center needs substantive equipment upgrades, including cameras and video tape recorders. They need all digital video tape recorders to hit the connection to Charter's head end with a signal as clean as possible. They do have fiber optic transmission from their location to Charter, but the equipment needs to be upgraded. The media center is looking for another facility because the current facility does not meet the needs of the media center should the media center get its equipment upgrades. Staffing is sufficient at the media center.

The media center requires persons to have training before being allowed access to digital cameras. The media center is located at 4024 Kietzke in the Crossroads Shopping Center. The website is http://www.sncat.org. Their phone number is 775-882-1211. They are open 9-5 although production goes until 10pm. It costs $140 and three Saturdays to learn the soup to nuts of using cameras, editing and putting shows together. There are other classes that teach specific thing like how to use a field camera, how to do television direction, etc. A single class costs approximately $40.

SNCAT cannot broadcast pornographic material, medical procedures, spots that attempt to sell products or services, or threatening material. Furthermore, they have not broadcast political campaign materials. This is a change from the early days of SNCA, when they allowed political messages to be broadcast. If the material is questionable, it will be broadcast during graveyard hours. For 95% of the cases, the media center does not make content judgments.

The media center is funded through the general fund, which receives money from the Franchise fee with the cable operator.

Mr. Fichman has been the Executive Director for six months.

SNCAT is under the umbrella of the media center. There is convergence of technologies going on in the communications industry, and the media center is trying to meet other needs in addition to the services provided by SNCAT such as archival media capabilities. The media center could go "all digital" and put everything on hard drives, but it would take money that the media center doesnít have at this time. Of course, it is on the list that Dr. Sepe received.
At this point, Mr. Shipman commented that Dr. Sepe's draft report is available


Chairman Barbano stated that the CCCC needed to create sub-committees. He commented that due to his position as Chair he was an ex-officio member of each sub-committee.

Jonathan Shipman stated that a sub-committee whose members make a quorum of the CCCC must comply with the Open Meeting Law. Mr. Shipman recommended that all meetings, regardless of whether a quorum was reached comply with the Open Meeting Law.

A question was raised as to whether four members could go to Charter's headquarters to review complaints without violating the Open Meeting Law. Mr. Shipman stated that the four members could go to Charter's headquarters to review complaints, but recommended that such a meeting be noticed and an agenda be provided. Mr. Shipmanís motto is, "when in doubt, comply with the Open Meeting Law."

Mr. Wright stated that he would be working closely with Ms. Spangler to process complaints regarding Charter's service. He would report back to the CCCC with an outline of their proposals and what processes they intended to put in place.

A question was raised as to why Sparks isn't represented in the CCCC? Chairman Barbano stated that he had attempted to establish contact with both Sparks and Washoe County. Sparks needs to form its own committee and Chairman Barbano was seeking information as to who were the members of the Washoe County Committee.

The following sub-committees were established:

The first sub-committee established was the Complaint Committee chaired by Ms. Inman and staffed by Ms. Stone and Ms. Gorman.

The second sub-committee established was the Charter Operations Committee chaired by Mr. Thornsberry and staffed by Mr. Padilla and Ms. Gorman. This Committee would analyze the technical aspects such as Charter's ability to provide a credit for a five minute outage as well as pricing and programming issues.

The third sub-committee established was the Communications Committee to reach out to other Citizen Committees on the local and national level. The Committee is chaired by Ms. Marshall and staffed by Mr. Thornsberry and Ms. Stone

The CCCC was encouraged to read Dr. Sepe's report, which was handed out at the meeting, and the Complaint Committee was encouraged to begin researching Charter's Complaint log.

The agenda for the next meeting should include a presentation of Dr. Sepe's report. Mr. Wright commented that Dr. Sepe's report was a needs assessment, which he viewed as a wish list.


None were offered.


The meeting was adjourned at approximately 6:30 p.m.

Minutes of previous meeting (12-11-2002)

Scope of CCCC Authority Under Current Law

Resolution establishing the Citizens Cable Compliance Committee

CCCC Bylaws

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