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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.

City 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 October.

CCCC accomplishments are many. For more than a year, the CCCC collaborated with city staff to develop Reno’s 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.


City management 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.

Finally, 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 constituencies.

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,

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 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
was appointed to the CCCC in July, 2005


GUEST EDITORIAL: Citizens still need cable TV committee
     by Donald J. "Joe" Dowden, member
Reno Gazette-Journal 11-30-2005

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Council's inaction on previous findings of non-compliance

Council ignores CCCC recommendation to implement service failure backup plan

CCCC August 26, 2004, meeting and fallout therefrom
   10-8-2004 — CCCC makes a radical & visionary recommendation to the council. READ IT.

   10-13-2004 — McNeely Administration staff makes a negative recommendation, as usual. READ MORE.

   Dazed and confused by Councilman Dave Aiazzi, the council takes no action. READ IT AND WEEP.

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