NEWTOWN AREA TELECOMMUNICATIONS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF MARCH 5, 2008
Members Present: Harry Stevens, Chairman; James Manahan, Member; and Barbara Jankowski, Member Representing Newtown Township; Gerard O’Malley, Liaison Representing Newtown Borough. Not present were Jerry Schenkman, Liaison and Robert Hafner, Member Liaison Representing Newtown Township and Patrick Foster, Vice Chairman Representing Newtown Borough.
Also present were Brian Jeter representing Comcast Cable Communications, Inc. and Borough resident John Leonard.
No representative from Verizon attended the meeting.
CALL TO ORDER:
Chairman Stevens called the meeting to order at 7:41 P.M.
MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 6, 2008:
James Manahan made a motion to approve the minutes of February 6, 2008. The motion was seconded by Barbara Jankowski and passed unanimously (3-0).
Brian Jeter updated the members with regards to Comcast having less contractors in the field, he discussed the construction side of the business. He discussed Comcast having strong earnings and advised that the telephone network is growing. He discussed the business bundles available, he advised that Comcast is going after commercial customers. He advised on the launch of HD Channels in the second or third quarter and that Comcast expects to have 40 – 50 channels before the end of the year. He advised that Comcast offers over ten thousand hours of Video On-Demand service. He advised that Comcast would be offering the TiVo service in Bucks County.
James Manahan questioned if Comcast would be offering the business bundles in New Jersey. Brian Jeter advised that the bundles are being offered company wide.
Harry Stevens questioned if Comcast has any plans to run the fiber directly to the home. Brian Jeter advised that there is no need to run the fiber directly to the home; he discussed the decrease of the number of homes per node, improving response time.
Harry Stevens discussed the Committee’s review of the Comcast Strand Maps and advised that all of the Township and Borough are built out, which several Committee members and Brian Jeter concurred.
James Manahan questioned if there is any company strategy to provided Internet video content (example: Video On-Demand offered for computers). Brian Jeter advised that he has heard that Comcast has the ability to do it, he discussed the Internet side with regards to changing the Comcast.net portal. He advised that triple play customers with have the ability to program their DVR and check their voicemail remotely.
The members discussed video conferencing.
Discussion of the proposed Comcast Franchise Agreements for Newtown Borough and Township
Harry Stevens discussed one of the Committee’s tasks being to review and recommend the proposed Comcast Franchise Agreement. He provided the members with a copy for review.
The Committee used the Comcast Franchise Agreement executive summary as a framework for the discussion. James Manahan requested Brian Jeter to update the members on any changes from the prior agreement. The members discussed the executive summary with regards to Franchise Fee Revenue, Franchise Grant, State-of-the-Art Requirement and System Specifications, Services to Community Facilities, Customer Service Standards, Public, Educational and Governmental ("PEG") Channels, Reporting Requirements, Enforcement, Length of Franchise Term, and Competitive Equity.
The members discussed the FCC requirement for the digital conversion that is scheduled to take effect in February 2009. Brian Jeter advised that Comcast would be down converting from digital to analog for approximately three years after February 2009 so those customers with analog televisions will continue to receive the same channels that they do now.
The members discussed the length of the proposed agreement being twelve years, the same as the current Verizon Franchise Agreement. Barbara Jankowski questioned why Comcast offered a fifteen year term. Brian Jeter advised on the reasons for Comcast offering a longer term.
Gerard O’Malley arrived for the meeting. Harry Stevens updated him with regards to discussions that have taken place at tonight’s meeting.
The members advised on their concerns with regards to cutting trees. Brian Jeter advised that Comcast has requested a copy of the Township and Borough’s tree ordinances.
The members discussed the negotiation process with Comcast.
The members discussed who else is reviewing the proposed Comcast Franchise Agreement and giving input to the Board of Supervisors or Council.
Brian Jeter advised the members that Comcast is pleased with the franchise agreement that is being proposed.
Gerard O’Malley updated the members with regards to the Borough and the proposed Comcast Franchise Agreement.
The members discussed the Borough with regards to designated locations for courtesy cable television services to Municipal facilities. Brian Jeter advised that there is a discrepancy with one of the locations and that he would get in touch with Dan Cohen to discuss the matter.
The members thanked Brian Jeter for his time.
The members discussed making a recommendation to the Township and to the Borough.
The members discussed the Township/Borough’s relationship with Comcast.
Barbara Jankowski commented that she was delighted to know that Comcast will keep the office on State Street.
James Manahan made a motion for the Committee to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they adopt the proposed Comcast Franchise Agreement. The motion was seconded by Barbara Jankowski and passed unanimously (3-0).
James Manahan made a motion for the Committee to recommend to the Borough Council that they adopt the proposed Comcast Franchise Agreement to the Borough. The motion was seconded by Barbara Jankowski and passed unanimously (3-0).
Barbara Jankowski questioned if the members of the Committee should attend the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on March 26, 2008. Harry Stevens advised that he did not think that was necessary.
Gerard O’Malley advised on discussions of the proposed Comcast Franchise Agreement scheduled for the Council meeting on March 11, 2008 and that if Council agrees the proposed agreement should be adopted at the April Council meeting.
James Manahan commented on the Committee having two open positions, he suggested discussing the matter further at the April meeting.
Public Access Channel
Harry Stevens questioned Comcast’s guidelines with regards to operating a public access channel. Brian Jeter advised with regards to Comcast’s guidelines for operating a public access channel and that he would forward information to Harry Stevens. He discussed the Levittown studio and advised on Comcast’s concerns with regards to running a public access channel.
Barbara Jankowski advised that she has concerns with regards to the content that could be proposed for a public access channel.
Brian Jeter advised the members that the FCC website should also have guidelines regarding public access channels.
Harry Stevens reported on what is driving the Committee’s interest in a public access channel.
Borough Government and Education Channels
The members discussed the Borough with regards to broadcasting the Education and Government Channels and the need for switching between the two channels. Harry Stevens advised on the Borough’s situation with regards to the broadcasting of Council meetings and mentioned one solution to be recording the meeting and broadcasting the tape from the Borough Hall.
OTHER BUSINESS/MEMBER COMMENTS:
The members discussed the possibility of changing the meeting night and agreed to have further discussions at the April meeting.
The members discussed the Township forming the Technology Committee.
The meeting adjourned at 9:23 P.M.
The next meeting is scheduled for April 2, 2008. The meeting will begin at 7:30 P.M., in the Newtown Borough Fire Station located at 14 Liberty Street, Newtown.
Christy Holley, Recording Secretary