Weekly President's Message

October 8, 2019

ACM Supports State of Maine in NCTA v Frey

ACM has filed an amicus brief in court supporting the State of Maine as it fights the national cable industry to ensure that PEG channels are not subject to discrimination by cable providers.

The case (NCTA vs Frey) was brought forward by the cable industry to ensure that cable companies aren’t subject to LD 1371, the bi-partisan effort to prevent channel slamming in Maine and ensure equal treatment for channels so that PEG HD and program guide information is available to consumers. 
Truth be told, the industry is also suing to prevent this type of consumer protection from spreading to other states. That’s why we’re supporting the law – for our members in Maine and across the US.  

You can find our amicus brief here. We’ll keep you posted on what develops in the case. 

Thank you to all our members who have supported our legal and public policy work with generous donations ABOVE your member dues. Those contributions give us the ability to expand the defense of our organizations.  
We are beginning to see the initial effects of the FCC’s cable franchising order in August.
Here’s one onerous development: Charter (Spectrum) legal staff is promoting the notion that capital support for PEG production centers can ONLY be used for cable purposes – therefore PEG centers can’t play their media on any other platform.
Let’s play a little thought experiment with this one: If you legitimately used PEG capital funds to build a production studio, Charter would have you believe you can’t stream video, put it on YouTube or other VOD platforms or even duplicate it on a DVD for home use. Further, no other activities in the building could take place. 

Further, none of the media that is copywritten by producers at such a facility could be used by producers EXCEPT on PEG channels.    

This is clearly NOT the meaning of the FCC actions, but we are living in an era of few scruples and many lawyers.  

Municipalities across the country and ACM are challenging the order in court for this reason among others – it will be used to intimidate and cow organizations and municipalities that don’t know better or don’t have the resources to defend themselves.  

We’re advising all members to notify us if you receive information about your cable provider trying to modify your franchise or use the order to unfairly limit services to your community.  
Here’s some other good reading for you, but be warned about its effects on your blood pressure:
Consumer Reports did an investigation of industry-imposed cable fees and found an eye-watering $28B each year in cable fees that are hidden from consumers in deceptive advertising. 

Further, they did an undercover investigation and found all cable providers blamed those skyrocketing fees on local and federal government! 
You can find the report here. It has useful charts on the growth of cable fees and the relative amount of fees consumer pay for services like PEG channels. 
We also heard this last week that Comcast has reached agreement with Vermont access channels so that among other things they will be included on electronic program guides.  It’s a hard fought and well deserved victory for Vermont consumers and the access channels that serve those communities.  You can find out more about the settlement here.

Congratulations, Vermont Access Network!
There’s still time to register for ACM Regional events in Michigan and Maine this coming month. I’ll be in the Grand Rapids area next week for the ACM Central States conference in Wyoming MI and I’ll be in Portland ME for the ACM NE show at the end of the month.
I hope to see you there!

Mike Wassenaar
ACM President & CEO