Here is the complete
text of Donald J. "Joe" Dowden's Reno Gazette-Journal
guest editorial as submitted and within RGJ guidelines. It was
nonethless cut by 100 words in the RGJ's print and web editions.
should keep citizens cable committee
This Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005, the Reno City Council will consider
eliminating its Citizens Cable Compliance
Committee (CCCC). Just last February, the council decided
to maintain the panel.
Nothing has changed. The committee has continued to quietly do
its job. Our extensive review of Charter Communications' compliance
with its new 15-year franchise found deficiencies which we conveyed
to city staff in August. Charter began to address the issues in
CCCC accomplishments are many. For more than a year, the CCCC
collaborated with city staff to develop Renos strong master
cable ordinance. Before our committee focused on the need, Charter
would not provide high speed cable modem service to area businesses.
Ironically, the council will conduct its first public review of
our compliance report on the same day it deliberates whether the
CCCC lives or dies.
S. SCHWARTZ Ph.D.
opposed creation of the citizens committee in 2002 and advocated
its elimination last winter.
The CCCC functions like the Nevada consumer advocate. The Reno
City Council is similar to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission
(PUC). City staff parallels PUC staff. From 1960 to 1981, the
Nevada legislature voted down creation of a consumer advocate's
office based on the argument that it would duplicate PUC staff.
eminent economist David
S. Schwartz, Ph.D., educated lawmakers that the staff
role produces an automatic conflict of interest. They must regulate
on the one hand, while balancing the competing interests of consumers
vs. stockholders on the other.
Over the past 25 years, the recommendations of PUC staff and the
consumer advocate have often diverged widely. They have different
While city staff must balance corporate vs. consumer interests,
the CCCC has one focus: How is the cable provider living up to
its franchise agreement and is the city properly enforcing it
to the maximum benefit of its citizens?
The city paid $54,000 for a professional assessment of community
needs and Charter responsiveness. Many of those findings have
not been implemented. One recommended development of "skinny
basic" low cost lifeline service. A Charter executive said
the company would work toward it but nothing happened. Charter's
15-year franchise mandates a 20 percent discount on basic rates
for persons either permanently disabled, or who meet certain income
guidelines or are over 65. The committee has repeatedly asked
city staff and Charter for an outreach program. People can't take
advantage if they are unaware. If the CCCC is retained, we will
continue to champion this program.
Many issues still require committee attention. One is the most
basic: the definition of what constitutes a complaint. This may
seem very simple, but the devil's in the details. Committee research
has determined that Charter's new Vancouver call center has in
several instances proven unable to distinguish Reno complaints
from those originating elsewhere. We need better data.
Space limitations will not allow a complete list of compliance
issues and deficiencies. A former CCCC member has posted our findings
at an unofficial website, DecidingFactors.org.
Telecommunications is a rapidly evolving field, critical to our
community's economic diversification and well being. Citizens
expect their government to mind the store on their behalf. The
CCCC has established itself as a value-added institution which
has earned continuation, not elimination.
Please write the Reno City
Council at P.O. Box 1900, 89505, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may call the mayor's office at 334-2001 or fax 334-2097.
The cost of the citizens committee is non-existent compared to
the need to monitor this important aspect of our growing community.
Donald J. "Joe" Dowden
to the CCCC in July, 2005
EDITORIAL: Citizens still need cable TV committee
by Donald J. "Joe" Dowden, member
to top of this page
Watch this website and Barbwire
by Barbano in the Sunday Sparks Tribune for updates.
to request placement on our mailing list.
a gripe? E-mail
it to us. We're finding that use of e-mail expedites matters.