JOINT CABLE TELEVISION ADVISORY BOARD
WEDNESDAY MAY 16, 2001
APPROVAL OF MINUTES at the regular meeting of June 20, 2001: Dr. Joe Ugras made a motion to approve the May 16, 2001, minutes, which was seconded by James Bowe. The motion carried unanimously.
Present: Dr. Joe Ugras, Chairman; Walt Iwaskiw; Ernie Bancroft; Ted Christian, Comcast
As there was not a quorum present, the following are notes from the meeting of those present.
Ted Christian, Comcast – updates
· Pre-engineering walkouts have been done at Ridings, and Comcast is looking for ways to reduce the pedestals. The residents disliked the old landscaping around the power source, and Comcast has agreed to re-landscape.
· The pre-engineering walkouts have been done; designs are finished. Work should begin in the next few weeks.
· Work at Tyler Walk began two weeks ago, and has been slower than hoped due to the hard ground because of lack of rain. They are reducing pedestals; Comcast is paying for the landscaping.
· Pedestals in some of the newer developments are now in compliance.
· Comcast has picked up Lower Bucks, and now serves about 90% of the county.
Mr. Iwaskiw has walked through some of the new homes in Lakeview, and noted, that although the newer pedestals are in the rights of way, they seem more scattered than the first ones. He asked if their placements were according to plan. He said the other utilities seem scattered as well. Mr. Christian said he would look into the matter.
Mr. Christian said that Scott Harp had approached Comcast to sponsor First Fourth, and he has submitted a request for $3000; this should be available by the end of the month.
Mr. Ugras asked about the government access channels; one was going to be added to cover the school department separately. Mr. Christian said that the educational channel 78 has been added, which includes Bucks County Community College and the Council Rock School District. The school board meetings are still aired on Channel 23, which is a decision of the government channel. Dr. Ugras and Mr. Iwaskiw inquired about a second channel to cover Holy Family and other community colleges, and if Comcast could bring in Philadelphia channel 56; Mr. Christian will follow up.
There was discussion regarding the At Home broadband service, which Mr. Christian said has been available in Newtown since November. External modems that connect the cable are available. Mr. Iwaskiw said he had a few problems with the self-install, mostly because he has Windows 2000. Mr. Bancroft said that there is a promotion now which includes a three month trial period and free installation; promotions are listed on the website. Mr. Iwaskiw suggested that the website add a place to complain and status information; only sales information is there now. The cost presently is $39.95 a month, plus $7 per month for modem rental. The rates for new customers will probably rise in June; for all customers in late summer or early fall. Mr. Iwaskiw said he had received a letter from a resident regarding installation, which he passed along to Mr. DiJulio.
Dr. Ugras asked if any meetings with residents have been planned. Mr. Christian said there have been meetings, and that Riding needs to get their plan approved; at other developments there is just work to be done. Mr. Iwaskiw said he would like to see the approvals moved along promptly. Mr. Christian said walkthroughs with Mr. Harp have been done in some developments.
Cable Odyssey 2001 – Mr. Iwaskiw
Mr. Iwaskiw recently attended the Cable Odyssey 2001 program, sponsored by the Bensalem cable board on March 30, and reported the following:
· Bensalem is looking to form a joint area cable board, which was mentioned frequently.
· The meeting was very informative.
· Competition was not promoted; two lawyers who spoke were against competition. They said that the cable companies make 40% - 50% profit, and if the services were split, the profit would drop and service would deteriorate.
· One speaker said that things are not going well for Metrocom, and that he believed that there would only be four cable companies by year’s end.
· A Public Access channel was discouraged, due to the inability to control the content; anyone can go on the channel.
· The two Washington-based lawyers who spoke were excellent: Shawn Stokes and Rick Elrod. They said that right of way rules couldn’t be too strong.
· There was a lot of discussion regarding franchise agreements: the typical contract was 7-10 years. Performance penalties and contracts no longer than 7 years were recommended.
Mr. Iwaskiw asked if there were any zoning regulations regarding the number, size and/or placement of cable dishes, and wondered if there should be. Dr. Ugras will contact the borough and township to inquire.
Dr. Ugras suggested that the name of this board should be changed to the Newtown Telecommunications Board, as other telecommunications issues are not covered by another committee and the subject would be appropriate to this committee. Other area boards have changed to cover all telecommunications issues. The consensus of those present was to speak to the municipal liaisons, and, upon approval of the municipalities, draft new bylaws.
The regulation of educational channels was discussed; they shouldn’t be regulated because of liability. Municipalities have lower liability. Dr. Ugras said that the university regulates the school radio, TV and newspaper.
Next Meeting: The next meeting was set for Wednesday, June 20th, at 7:30 pm at LaSalle University, Room 117. There will be an update from Mr. Christian regarding channel 58, and follow up on the suggested committee name change; Dr. Ugras will speak to Mark Craig and Scott Harp.
** There will be no July meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:40 pm.
Acting Recording Secretary