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


December 9, 2004


1. Review the Mission Statement of the Board or Commission. What value does it offer the citizens of Reno?

RESPONSE OF COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ANDREW BARBANO: An overview of the scope of our authority, as presented by the city's consultant, Robert Sepe, Ph.D., may be viewed at

The committee has consistently and vigorously fulfilled the charge given it under the revised bylaws, addressed in order, hereinbelow.


The purpose of the CCCC shall be to serve as an advisor to the City of Reno ("City")

   1. To monitor franchise contract compliance by each community antenna television ("CATV") company and to report to the City Council on the status of compliance at least once per year;

BARBANO COMMENT: We have reported cases of noncompliance and made other recommendations to the council much more frequently than the minimum.

    2. To review reports filed by each CATV company;

The committee has done so on an ongoing basis and has consistently and sometimes successfully pushed to obtain data which Charter Communications has been quite uncooperative in providing. Committee member Thornsberry's January 2003 request for information which Charter by contract must provide to the city took more than six months.

   3. To assist in performing rate regulation as provided under Federal and State laws;

BARBANO COMMENT: This function allowed rapid response when the committee chair was notified through the national cable advocates' network that Charter Communications had applied to the Federal Communications Commission for complete deregulation in Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Washoe and Clark counties. The chair has been advised that it is the opinion of some experts that the immediate focus brought to this issue propelled all the governments involved, save Clark County, to pool their resources and file objections.

   4. If the Committee or a Committee member receives consumer complaints from the general public, to refer those complaints to City staff;

BARBANO COMMENT: The city caved in to Charter Communications demands and removed complaint resolution from the committee's purview because of the increased accountability an experienced member of the committee was able to bring to bear.

Before the dilution, this resulted in the committee's initial and perhaps its most substantial victory. An original committee member was aware of the case of a Douglas County entrepreneur whose high speed cable modem service was canceled by Charter when he complained of a service failure at his home. He made the mistake of telling Charter that he urgently needed his service restored because he needed to upload a large packet of data to a client in California. Charter informed him that the company did not provide high-speed cable modem to businesses, home-based such as his or otherwise, and permanently cancelled his high speed broadband Internet service.

This case was mentioned in our first meeting in December of 2002 when we were parceling out subcommittee assignments. Business broadband was made a priority. (No Charter representative was present.) By the time of our January, 2003, meeting, Charter announced to the committee that it was now providing high speed cable modem to businesses. Problems with high speed broadband had been brought forward by Andrew Barbano in 2002 public meetings held to determine Charter's level of service. Mr. Barbano noted that poor high speed Internet service constituted all the reason a relocating company would need to decide not to come to Nevada.

Several local businesses, including those run out of residences, remarked to the chair about their pleasant surprise at Charter's seemingly inexplicable and rapid turnaround of a longstanding policy of blacking out area businesses from high speed broadband Internet. If the committee never accomplished anything else, this would have been enough.

   5. To review and advise the City Council regarding CATV company’s complaint resolution process;
   6. To review and advise the City Council regarding the City’s complaint resolution process;

BARBANO COMMENT REGARDING 5 AND 6: The committee serves as the only unconflicted advocate (see below) for the ratepayers of the City of Reno. Its ability to review complaint and compliance issues remains critical to ensuring accountability by both city staff and the cable company.

    7. To make recommendations to the City Council about the performance of each CATV provider so that the best information is available to the City in case of a minor or major default, and when preparing for a renewal of franchise, permit, license, contract, certificate, or agreement;


   1. Participate in the revision of the city's Master Cable Ordinance
   2. Offer numerous recommendations to the city for use in its negotiations of the franchise agreement between the city and its only cable operator, most of which were ignored;
   3. Successfully recommend the following policies and procedures now in place:
        A. Assignment by the council of specific cable responsibility to an administrative unit within the city's organizational structure;
        B. Development of certain reports indicating cable subscriber dissatisfaction (reports from both the city's RenoDirect system and from the cable operator);
        C. The aggressive pursuit by the city to ensure that technological requirements are tested for, are met and are corrected, as required;
        D. Raised the issue of the deficiencies with the Emergency Alert System as presently configured and utilized by the local cable company; conducted a long hearing/workshop with state and federal EAS representatives and city staff.
        E. COMPREHENSIVE LONG-RANGE PLAN: Provided to the city a synopsis of the negatives to the city attributable to the removal from the city scene of the present cable operator, or by the present cable operator changing its technological approach to the delivery of its service.

COMMENT BY BARBANO: Given fast-breaking new technology, a prejudicial new 15-year franchise agreement and Charter Communications' chronic financial troubles, we have advised the city to develop a long range cable backup plan in conjunction with Sparks and Washoe County.

Further complicating matters is Charter's new digital system in Long Beach, Calif. The company recently unveiled technology to bypass any cable regulation by calling everything broadband Internet service.

City staff, as always, has recommended that the council turn down the citizens committee's very detailed proposal.

Hereinbelow is my letter to Councilmember Aiazzi regarding the tabling of the long range plan on Oct. 13, 2004:

5:50 p.m. PDT

Regarding: Citizens Cable Compliance Committee (CCCC) recommendation that the city implement a long range backup plan to ensure continuity of cable TV service

The Hon. David Aiazzi, Member
Reno City Council

Dear Councilman Aiazzi:

Per your statements at this afternoon's Reno City Council meeting wherein you noted that the CCCC has gone outside its purview in recommending the long-range cable TV backup plan (upon which the council took no action), I refer you to Article II of our bylaws, hereinbelow.

Your Citizens Cable Compliance Committee has reviewed that issue several times in public meetings. It appears well within our charter to formulate and make such a recommendation and that no amendment to our bylaws is necessary. (See the Article II statement of purpose and sections 7, 8 and 10.)

The council, of course, can ask us to perform any task and we would be happy to go forward. We think the long range plan is of utmost importance for the reasons delineated in committee, in print commentaries and testimony before the council.

If, as you stated, you think it too much of a burden on city staff, I think your citizens committee will certainly be willing to roll up our sleeves. Of course, there are some things city staff can do which we cannot, so some of the activity must by its nature be a collaborative effort.

I will agendize this for discussion at our regularly scheduled October 28 meeting (New City Hall, 6:30 p.m.). I look forward to seeing you there and to move this matter forward before the council in the next month. It would be helpful if the city staff research which the council requested today could be completed in time for our October session.

Thank you.


Andrew Barbano, Chair
City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee

ec: Mayor and Council
City Attorney
City staff
Citizens Cable Compliance Committee
Cable consumers


   8. To encourage the widest and most innovative development of CATV service to the public working with CATV providers, any public or private group, organization, or person; and,

COMMENT BY BARBANO: For most of our first year, the only Internet presence for our committee and its functions was provided by an unofficial website which I established and continue to maintain at my own expense. Council liaison Aiazzi has praised the information resource. It provides ratepayers, advocates, governmental agencies and any others the most comprehensive and current picture of what's happening in the industry in Nevada and the region.

   9. To review and make recommendations to the City Council regarding CATV discounts for economically and socially disadvantaged citizens;

COMMENT BY BARBANO: Committee members Barbara Stone and Noel Thornsberry have been very active in protecting the interests of senior citizens and other deserving ratepayers. The above discounts are endangered by Charter's FCC application for deregulation.

   10. To perform such other tasks as the City Council might direct regarding CATV.


2. What are some of the key areas of focus for the coming year?

Experts who have reviewed the joint governmental response to Charter's FCC application for complete deregulation have noted that Charter may very probably prevail. This committee has no counterpart in Sparks or Carson City. Washoe County's committee meets irregularly. It will be up to Reno's committee to provide leadership in mitigating the effects of complete loss of regulatory authority, which include, but are not necessarily limited to:

   A. Uniform pricing will become a thing of the past. Charter will be able to implement the equivalent of Sierra Pacific Power charging Sparks customers less for natural gas than customers in southeast Reno.

   B. Charter will be free to sell below cost, a variant of what ARCO does — lowball the price in a certain zone of town to drive out an independent retailer.

   C. Charter will be able to eliminate senior discounts and any potential for buy-through availability, which is ala carte pricing. (In early 2003, Charter told the City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee that they were in the process of implementing a "skinny basic" service, basically a lifeline rate. Once such a structure is in place, they can offer "buy-through," e.g., a customer who qualifies can purchase skinny basic and HBO only. It never happened. The Bush FCC squashed an ala carte proposal last month.)

      Communities have regretted failure to object. Some residents of Citrus County, Florida, were outraged when they found their cable operator charging one neighborhood less for the same service. The FCC told them they should have objected when they had the chance. Simi Valley, California, experienced rate increases three or four times a year.

       This brings up a longstanding public utility consumer complaint: unfair subsidy of one group of ratepayers by another.

       This maneuver, combined with the industry trend to define everything as deregulated high-speed broadband Internet and thus exempt from any regulation or franchise, portends great danger for ratepayers. Charter's Long Beach, Calif., system is a model for facilitating such redefinition.

       Within 24 hours of the publication of the chairman's comments, above, in the Daily Sparks Tribune and on the Internet, Charter Vice-President Marcia Berkbigler told the Carson City Nevada Appeal and local television stations that the company was again looking at Skinny Basic. Shades of the 2003 residential high speed cable modem reversal.

      The Carson City newspaper reported the following on Nov. 23 regarding the deregulation attempt: "Charter would no longer be required to offer a basic cable package and could require residents to buy more expanded packages to get basic services.

       "'They could also do negative-option billing,' (Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark) Forsberg said. 'It's charging you for something you might not want, like a cable box, unless you say you don't want it.'

      "With deregulation, Charter could also bill customers for increased amounts based on location," reporter Robyn Moormeister wrote. (More on the deregulation issue.)

       The chair has already begun forming a strategy to bring to the council and staff should deregulation be granted.

3. Why is it beneficial to keep the Board or Commission?

We are the only unconflicted advocate for the ratepayers. The city expedited approval of a 15-year franchise for Charter against the committee's recommendation that it first be reviewed by the city's financial advisory board.

Two principal reasons were given for the expedited 15-year agreement. First, on the day of ratification, Councilmember Aiazzi stated that Charter's employees should be reassured that their jobs would be guaranteed for the next 15 years. Charter closed its call center, putting 40 Nevadans out of work, within three months.

Mr. Aiazzi later told the committee that Charter was unaware of an option to renew for 10 years. Had the company exercised the option, the city "would have gotten nothing." (The committee has since developed information that Charter was very much aware of the option but saw advantages in a new agreement rather than continuing under the 1988 contract.)

The city's driving force in giving Charter 15 years was admittedly monetary. The council was informed that the longer term brought more quick cash to the city coffers. The committee argued for a reduction in franchise fees charged to ratepayers, principal source of the city's money.

Ratepayers often hurl a baseless allegation against the Public Utilities Commission and the state consumer advocate's office that since both are funded by the mill tax on utility bills, a conflict of interest exists. That criticism is well-founded with respect to cable television, as councilmembers and staff have placed in the official record of the Charter franchise renewal.

The outreach and communications networks formed by the members, combined with their experience in these issues, have proven very beneficial to the ratepayers and will be increasingly important as communications technology changes while the city is saddled with a franchise which is already obsolete in parts.

4. Would it be more effective for the NAB (Neighborhood Advisory Board) to do this work?

No. The city is one big cable neighborhood and we are the advisory board.

5. Would it be more effective for a City, County, or State organization to do this work? If not, why?

No such organization exists. We advocate coordination and communication with Carson City and Washoe County and have long chided Sparks for not establishing a citizens committee in advance of the looming expiration of its franchise. That said, each governmental entity negotiates its own franchise with different demands and requirements. Cable television is basically a federal to local enterprise. Since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, we are informed that various state agencies have very little authority to deal with cable issues. (For instance, the Bureau of Consumer Protection might be persuaded to look into widespread consumer fraud.)

6. Do meetings track the posted agenda?

COMMENT FROM COMMITTEE MEMBER NOEL THORNSBERRY: For the most part, and it's getting better now that the "hot" issues" have been completed.

7. Besides more money, what would make the Board or Commission more effective?

    A. The councilmembers and staff should re-read Dr. Sepe's $54,000 study on Charter Communications' operations, most of the major recommendations of which the council has chosen to ignore. The executive summary with those recommendations is available at

    B. A constructive attitude by the council and the McNeely Administration.

        Councilmember Aiazzi, the council's liaison to our committee, has stated, that City Manager Charles McNeely and his staff do only what the council orders them to do. If that is indeed the case, then the single best thing that the council can do is to order staff to be more receptive to the committee's recommendations rather than acting almost as representatives of the cable company. This reinforces the conflict of interest noted in the response to question no. 3, above.

        The committee advised the council against granting continuing short term extensions to Charter's expired franchise without getting anything in return for ratepayers.

        The members of this committee spent countless hours reviewing and making recommendations for a new franchise agreement bearing the greatest benefits and protections to the citizens of the City of Reno. Had the council heeded the recommendations of the committee with respect to many of the provisions of the franchise, Reno would be in a contractually much stronger position today in challenging Charter's FCC application for complete deregulation, an impending consumer disaster.

        The ratepayers would also not be subject to a 15-year agreement which is already obsolete in part.

    C. Get CCCC meetings back on television. In its recently concluded contract negotiations with Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT/The Media Center), the city failed to provide for continuing the cablecasting of Citizens Cable Compliance Committee meetings. The Youth City Council was also excluded. Councilmember Jessica Sferrazza has informed the chair that these were oversights which will be corrected.

SUMMATION BY ANDREW BARBANO, CCCC CHAIR: In retrospect, the committee's relationship with the city and Charter has evolved into an adversarial one, and that's good.

The public utility regulatory process is an adversarial process, with utilities attempting to maximize stockholder rate of return and the consumer advocate's office making the case most advantageous to the ratepayers. The Nevada Public Utilities Commission and its staff are analogous to the Reno City Council and their staff, although, as noted above, Reno has a financial conflict of interest which the PUC does not.

Charter's new 15-year franchise, evolving technology and the company's current attempts to end-run any regulation give the city the prospect of decreasing revenue from a technologically expanding business.

Members of this committee sparked the introduction of pro-consumer legislation during the 2003 Nevada legislative session, a bill which the City of Reno and the council endorsed. Had Charter not killed the bill, Reno ratepayers would be in a significantly stronger position given the events of 2004.

The interests of the ratepayers are best served by keeping the ratepayers' consumer advocates in place.

Respectfully submitted on this Ninth Day of December, 2004, by
Andrew L. Barbano, Ratepayer and Chair
City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee
P.O. Box 10034
Reno, NV 89510
(775) 786-1455
Fax 747-0979

[fn: H12/8 CCCC Overview/city of reno/ charter/opsn4]

     [UPDATE: The City of Reno's Boards and Commissions Review Task Force recommended that the Citizens Cable Compliance Committee be eliminated. The task force agreed with McNeely Administration staff that city employees could do the job and that the committee is unnecessary. At its meeting of 23 Feb. 2005, the Reno City Council voted down the recommendation to kill the cable panel.]




   CHARTING THE FUTURE AT CITY HALL. On lucky Oct. 13 at the new downtown black tower, the Reno City Council will hear a recommendation from its Citizens Cable Compliance Committee, which I chair. Given fast-breaking new technology, a prejudicial new 15-year franchise agreement and Charter Communications' chronic financial troubles, we have advised the city to develop a long range cable backup plan in conjunction with Sparks and Washoe County.

   As I reported on Aug. 1, further complicating matters is Charter's new digital system in Long Beach, Calif. The company recently unveiled technology to bypass any cable regulation by calling everything broadband Internet service.

   City staff, as always, has recommended that the council turn down the citizens committee's very detailed proposal. I need your support. Contact the council, three of whom are seeking re-election, and tell them to give us some insurance against a major new abuse of consumers by our local cable monopoly. If you can't make it to the meeting, you will be able to see reruns through the weekend on SNCAT cable channel 13. Full details and contact info at

Complete contact info for mayor, council & key staff


Confused by Councilman Dave Aiazzi, the council takes no action

Council slush fund revealed


City should get out of TV business
Reno Gazette-Journal Editorial 9-17-2004

Cable Committee wants backup plan
Reno Gazette-Journal 9-16-2004

Charter financial problems continue
Daily Variety 10-8-2004

Back to information about
the August 26, 2004, CCCC meeting

The 2003 legislative fight to change some
of the anti-consumer laws noted above

Charter's potential plan to avoid the meager remains
of regulation and access TV support

Phone firms attempt to be relieved of franchise fee payment
on cable service

USA Today 12-8-2004

Fool me twice, shame on me
Charter tests end-run around regulation
Daily Sparks Tribune 8-1-2004, Comstock Chronicle 8-6-2004

Latest cable TV con jobs
Tol'ja So — Charter closes Reno call center, fires 40

Councilman Aiazzi re-defends April employment ploy

Daily Sparks Tribune 7-25-2004, Comstock Chronicle 7-29-2004




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

     Thank you.

Back to Unofficial Citizens Cable Compliance Committee Home Page




Site designed & maintained by Deciding Factors