JOINT CABLE TELEVISION ADVISORY BOARD

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 21, 2001


DRAFT COPY


Members Present: Dr. Joe Ugras, Chairman, James Bowe, Member, Representing Newtown Township, Ernie Bancroft, Treasurer, representing the Newtown Borough, Stuart Myles, Member representing Newtown Borough, Scott Harp, Liaison for Newtown Township and Mark Craig, Liaison for Newtown Borough.

Others Present: Ted Christian, Director of Government & Community Regulations Comcast, Walt Iwaskiw, Resident and Ross Markman, Reporter for the Bucks County Courier Times.

CALL TO ORDER Chairman Joe Ugras called the meeting to order at 7:40 p.m.

AGENDA:

1. Executive Session

2. Approval of the minutes to the January 17, 2000 Meeting

3. Election of Officers

4. Comcast Update

5. RCN Update

6. Common Utilities

7. Other Business

COMCAST UPDATE: Comcast has raised its fees 5% effective March 15, 2001. A notice was forwarded by Comcast to the municipalities in a letter dated February 8, 2001 and received on February 9, 2001.  Comcast will be adding Fox News, WWFI and Animal Planet to the channel line up. This rate increase came directly from Comcast. The Board was not consulted with nor did Comcast seek the Board's advice prior to implementation of this increase.

Comcast will be working on making the educational channels available to the universities and colleges and communities, as they are required to do so by the Franchise Agreements.

Comcast also explained the Annual Service report. This was a breakdown of the service problems (being between 3 - 5% in each area) and demonstrated a high area of problems in April, due to weather conditions.

Additionally, Comcast plans to meet on March 5, 2001 with the Homeowner's Association of Tyler Walk. Mr. Harp spoke with Joe DeJulio a few days ago and they are attempting to schedule a meeting with Comcast and the Homeowner's Association of The Ridings.

Mr. Harp requested that we invite representatives from the three local colleges to next month's meeting to discuss the use of the educational channels. Mr. Harp additionally requested Mr. Christian be advised to have the appropriate PR people here to discuss issues concerning Comcast.

APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES: Dr. Ugras asked if there were any amendments and/or changes to the January 17, 2001 minutes. There were none.

Dr. Ugras made a motion to approve the January 17, 2001 minutes, which was seconded by James Bowe.

Motion carried unanimously.

ELECTION OF OFFICERS FOR 2001: James Bowe motioned to nominated Dr. Joe Ugras as Chairman.  Dr. Ugras asked if there were any other nominations for Chairman.  There were none.

Mr. Bowe's motion was seconded by Mr. Bancroft.

Motion carried unanimously.

Dr. Ugras motioned to nominate James Bowe as Vice-Chairman, which was seconded by Mr. Bancroft. Dr. Ugras asked if there were any other nominations for this position. There were none.

Motion carried unanimously.

Dr. Ugras made a motion to nominate Ernie Bancroft as Treasurer, which was seconded by Mr. Bowe. Dr. Ugras asked if there were any other nominations for this position. There were none.

Motion carried unanimously.

INTRODUCTION OF STUART MYLES TO THE CABLE BOARD: The Cable Board welcomed Stuart Myles to the Cable Board. Mr. Myles joins the Board representing Newtown Borough. He is employed at Dowe Jones, as an accountant.

RCN UPDATE: It was discussed that RCN has decided not to go to Philadelphia. Comcast's headquarters is located in Philadelphia. They sponsored the Republican Convention, and sponsor sporting events; they are a Comcast county. The FCC study demonstrates that where there is competition, the prices for cable are lower. We need to make certain that RCN does come to the suburbs. RCN has made a statement that they will be putting their efforts into the suburbs now to build their system.

We have not heard from RCN directly as of this time. Mr. Harp said that they have invested a lot of money in Montgomery County and occupy a building there, which demonstrates that they have a sizable investment in this area. We can hope that they will continue in their plans to build out in the suburbs. They are also present in Delaware County.

Mr. Craig indicated that the promise made to us by RCN that within four years they would be in Newtown Township and the Borough. This may be even earlier, possibly as early as 2001.

As to RCN as it relates to Comcast for the township and borough, it is believed that Comcast began upgrading and offering digital cable, following knowledge that RCN is coming here. Comcast took better care of other communities prior to this knowledge and we were not being treated well before this knowledge.

Dr. Ugras indicated that the board has been asked to participate with other communities to discuss bring competition to Bucks County. Since we have signed with RCN these efforts have intensified.  In July of 2000, several representative from Doylestown, Warminster, Bensalem, Southampton and Northampton came to Newtown to discuss RCN. RCN and their representatives were present to discuss working with them and bringing in this competition. There continues to be a few communities that have not signed with RCN in this area.  Bristol Township has not, however, Bristol Borough and Lower Makefield has.

Dr. Ugras received correspondence from Ralph G. Douglass, Chairperson from Bensalem's Joint Cable/Telecommunications Advisory Board For Bucks County, inviting the board to attend a meeting on Saturday, March 31, 2001. One part of this meeting on their agenda is to discuss Franchising. Fred Polner was invited as well as governmental officials. Dr. Ugras would like to attend this meeting and continued the meeting held here in July. Most of the items listed on the agenda are issues already covered by the board, but is lacking in topics on competition and regulating prices. Dr. Ugras advised that he will be meeting Mr. Douglass and will obtain more information on this meeting and advise the board, if any.

COMMON UTILITIES Mr. Bowe advised that he and Mr. Harp met with David Steil, who agreed that there is a concern in Bucks County with the issues presently before this board. Mr. Steil is presently working on similar types of codes and/or ordinances presented as a Bill and continues to gather information. One of the issues he needed for this process was what our agreement is with Comcast and RCN.  We forwarded copies of these agreements to him for his review.  He also requested that we provide him with an inventory of the different types of equipment being placed in our community (i.e. a description of the various components, technical specifications, including their size and weight and electrical specifications.) This information is needed prior to writing anything to control utilities. Mr. Steil is looking at things in a very broad prospective. Mr. Steil could not provide us with any direction at this time. He realizes that this is completely wide open, but as a State Legislature, the laws governing companies like Comcast and RCN are potentially Federal Law.  Even at the state level, there may not be a lot that we can do.

Mr. Craig discussed that pursuant to our discussions with Tom Harwood, at last month's meeting, we can control the permitting on a right-of-way. In that sense we can control the placement of equipment and specifying what is required and what is not allowed.  Mr. Bowe indicated that we can control this element, but it is difficult to require what type of equipment be used. Mr. Craig indicated that the requirement of equipment could be part of a compromise where we can dictate placement or that it not be placed above ground.

Mr. Bowe advised that one of the areas we do have control is if the utility companies place more equipment and/or bring it above ground. That movement requires some sort of permit. What we are attempting at this point is to set a standard that must be applied. The issue is what should the standard be? We don't want to place a hardship on the operational end of the company or effect service on the communities. We are interested in having flush mounted boxes installed. With a flush mounted vault, you would only see the top of the box.

OTHER BUSINESS: Dr. Ugras discussed a letter written by Cornell Hopkins, Township Manager, dated February 2, 2001, addressed to Metricom, Inc. discussing their Franchise Agreements for the Township and Borough. Mr. Davey responded to this letters in his of February 13, 2001, which does not fully address the issues addressed by Mr. Hopkins. Additionally, Fred Polner provided Mr. Hopkins an article from The New York Times, which portrays Metricom as being in severe financial trouble.

Mr. Bowe indicated that we need to address to the communities that we want to get competition for our cable in this area. RCN also seems to be having some reported financial difficulties. Mr. Bowe indicated even if we get RCN into our communities and they install their equipment and down the road they have to sell out, the bottom line is we have a complete, installed system, which is a great asset that another company would be able to purchase and take over the operating and maintenance of this newly installed system.

ADJOURNMENT: The next meeting is scheduled for March 21, 2001.

Motion was made by Dr. Joe Ugras to adjourn the meeting, which was seconded by Ernie Bancroft.

Motion carried unanimously.

 

Respectfully submitted, By:_______________________________________
                                                Anita Arndt, Recording Secretary