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

CCCC opposes extension

of Charter Cable Reno franchise



We have a new tabu at the Citizens Cable Compliance Committee. Any agenda item with the word "franchise" included is surgically excised by the city attorney prior to publication. Nontheless, here I stand again today, treading where we have been told not to step, and for very good reason.

Like you, we are concerned about the best interests of cable ratepayers. When we see non-compliance, we feel compelled to act, to speak, to report, to advise. We have found Charter Communications out of compliance for not properly notifying ratepayers about where to lodge complaints. We have passed a resolution asking the council to order qualified Charter representatives to attend our meetings. We think our inputs on those items should be on the table in the current franchise negotiations, rather than trying to add them when the final document is finally made available for public review.

When we saw what we perceived as evidence of weakness in the secret negotiations with Charter for a new master franchise agreement, we came before you in September with a recommendation that you not grant them an extension of the current franchise without substantial concessions. The extension was granted, but thankfully only for 90 days, not the full year recommended by staff.

Seeing the very questionable recommendation to grant a year for apparently nothing in return, we asked that a member of our committee, sworn to secrecy from other members if necessary, be placed as an observer in the negotiations. The council rejected that recommendation by a 7-0 vote.

In the alternative, we asked that Dr. Robert Sepe, the city's cable consultant, become heavily involved in the negotiations to add weight to the team so assigned, a group which intentionally does not include the city's most experienced cable executive. This council was assured on Sept. 24 that Dr. Sepe had been so involved. However, a review of his billings show that he has spent 13.74 hours reviewing franchise drafts between August 21 and October 31. That's about four and a half hours a month. We are certainly glad he's being consulted, if only apparently at long distance in North Carolina. Is that enough? We don't know. But today, you have before you another staff recommendation to once again unilaterally extend Charter's franchise, again apparently without additional ratepayer benefits.

Opening up the process and raising a public profile can bring forward resources available in the community we may not know we have. When the cable committee questioned the extension in September, we received the following comments from someone heavily qualified in the area of such regulation. I quote:

"I have no idea why the city would consider granting an extension without receiving some consideration in return. Pursuant to federal law, if the franchise lapses, it continues, like an apartment rental lease. month-to-month or year-to-year (depending on how often Charter remits franchise fees to the city) until it is revoked. The revocation process is known as a 'formal renewal,' so there is no compelling need for a city to extend a franchise except to grant a favor to the cable company.

"Cable companies, like Charter, 'need' franchises to placate their creditors. Creditors demand that operators have franchises to secure their loans and guarantee repayment. The city is in the best bargaining position when the franchise has lapsed because the company is under pressure from creditors to cut a deal. So, I ask, what consideration has Charter offered in exchange for the extension? Capital equipment for PEG?* Operational funds for PEG? More PEG channels? A rate freeze?

"The extension gives Charter another year in which to whittle down and dilute the terms of the proposed agreement and the provisions of the cable standards ordinance.

"If the purpose is to synchronize the renewal process with the County and Sparks and form a combined negotiating team, and negotiate identical franchises for all three local governments, well, then a one-year extension makes sense. The risk is that the minimum becomes the maximum. Otherwise, there is no good reason to grant an extension."

Will the ratepayers obtain any benefit from this apparently gratuitous extension? We don't know. We hope so. Would the community benefit from some opening up of this negotiation process? Based on the evidence at hand, I think so.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Based upon the Citizens Cable Compliance Committee's unanimous resolution in opposition to the previous extension — back when we were still allowed to place such issues on our agenda — we again ask you not to pass item 5D. In the alternative, get something for it.

These comments have been unofficially posted at I ask that they be included verbatim in the record today.

Thank you.


*Public, Educational, Governmental access channels (SNCAT)

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

    Thank you.




Reno City Council Contact Information

City of Reno
P.O. Box 1900
Reno, NV 89505

City Manager Charles McNeely — Phone (775) 734-2099, Fax 334-6307

Cable TV Comment Fax — (775) 334-3124

Leann McElroy, Chief of Staff, 334-2022,
Steven Wright, Community Relations Director/Negotiator, 321-8302,
City of Reno Citizens Service Center, 334-2099.
Stuart Peters, Strategic Planner/Negotiator, 321-8397,
Jonathan D. Shipman, Deputy City Attorney,

Hizzoner Mayor Bob Cashell, 334-2001,

Ward 1 - Toni Harsh
   NOTE: Dan Gustin replaced Toni Harsh in November, 2004
   Contact: 334-2011,
Ward 2 - Sharon Zadra, 334-2017,
Ward 3 - Jessica Sferrazza, 334-2012,
Ward 4 - Dwight Dortch, 334-2015,
Ward 5 - Dave Aiazzi, Council liaison to the CCCC, 334-2016,
At Large - Pierre Hascheff, 334-2014,

Please send a copy to the committee at

   You may contact the mayor, council and staff individually through the hot links, above, or look below and highlight, copy them as text only, paste them into your e-mail program and send to everyone at once. (Remember to retain the commas.)



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