COUNTY WILL RETAIN 4 CABLE ACCESS CHANNELS-Andrew Stelzer02/01/06
Today the Hillsborough county commission considered how many public, education and and government, or â€˜PEGâ€™ access channels should be provided by cable companies to the residents of the county, as the entry of Verizon into the local market is eliminating a monopoly formerly held by Brighthouse. In the commissioners morning session, more than a dozen citizens asked for an increase from the current 4 channels, to 6 or 12. Brian Becker the secretary of the Hillsborough county greens.(
ACT â€œpublic access is fundamental..it serves as the only TV outlet for grassroots, people to share what has outraged moved or made an impression..without public access, TV relies on the corporation here activism cant determine what we watch..brighthouse propaganda epitomizes bad corporate citizenship..having cable lines is a right not a privlige..brighthouse would like to strip us of community and have programming that is of no intrinsic programming. Brighthoues lack of obligation is a shameless desire to profit..despite the population grown, cable increased channels, brighthouse calls for cut to peg channels, hills deserve more PEG not fewer and a better corporate citizen..â€?
In a previous meeting, Commissioner Rhonda Storms suggested that a poll be taken of Brighthouse customers in Hillsborough county, to see if they wanted to pay additional fees on their cable bills to support more PEG stations. The motion was not passed, but Brighthouse went out on their own airing announcements threatening that cable bills would go up, if the commission decided to increase the number of cable access channels.
Jerry Bickle was part of a focus group that originally helped bring cable television to Hillsborough County. ACT â€œlast week I saw the ad, I thought I should tell them, at 215 I was told by their office that its their commercial, I donâ€™t think its the desire to take away these programsâ€¦â€™
During the afternoon session, Eva Christenson, the chair of the Tampa Hillsborough cable advisory committee, forwarded the recommendation of the committee, which was to postpone signing the Verizon contract for 6 months.
ACT â€œwe only have to look to se growth, we
But the idea of waiting was outweighed by concerns that congress is currently considering bills which would prevent county governments from negotiating terms with cable companies. While the majority of people who came to speak were in favor of more cable access channels, a few, like Lisa Goodwin, didnâ€™t want the additional cost.
ACT â€œI know a few dollars may not mean a lot, but it does to some people, especially with increasing costs, thanks fro asking hard questions..â€?
Another citizen said that with the advent of Internet technology, there will be no need for cable access, as everyone will get whatever they need from the internet. Commissioner Rhonda Storms took a different angle, advocating for 3 PEG channels, plus one on demand channel on which someone could have 40 hours worth of programs waiting to be watched on demand. Commissioner Storms said she and the rest of the commission received thousands of emails from people who didnâ€™t want more channels.
ACT-Storms â€˜from Bob and Deborah Betler..we donâ€™t watch, we support removing not waste money, Jim Weatherford..i want to voice my opinion, I strongly oppose them, the current ones could be decreased..this is business decisions..we asked our constituents..â€?
But Commissioner Sharpe noted that most of the negative comments came from people who didnâ€™t want to pay, and so if paying more is off the table, that opposition would not be so substantial. Most members of the commission agreed that costs for more channels could not be passed on to the customer. As for how many PEG channels should Commissioner Brian Blair proposed that there should be 3 PEG channels, commissioner Mark Sharpe proposed 4, and Commissioner tom Scott proposed 5, which would have been an increase beyond the current 4. Scott advocated for adding the explorer channel, which is currently available in the city of Tampa, which has 6 PEG channels, at a cost of 47 cents per month to the consumer.
ACT-Scott â€œthis is a 15 year contract..it makes sense, education, president said science and math, we have an opportunity to do education, at least we ought to walk away with the explorer channel, at least give that to the kids, you cant go wrong with that..â€?
But Commission Blair disagreed with Scott, and reiterated his call for 3 channels.
ACT-Blair â€œwhen people all the time hang their hat on the elderly..60 % get cable, so the minorities lose out..we have so many channels, national geographic..we have so many..people have computers.they can get what the y wan when they want it..â€?
Verizon has already laid millions of dollars worth of fiber optic cables underground in advance of the contract, which was pointed out means they would agree to whatever terms the commission insisted on. Verizon Service is guaranteed for all of Hillsborough County within 5 years, the closest in area will be given the choice of brighthouse or Verizon within 2 years. City staff estimated that the contract would generate over 2 billion dollars for Brighthouse, and likely the same for Verizon. Commission Chair Jim Norman said he saw leaning towards keeping the current 4 channels, because of their monetary value.
ACT-Norman â€˜unless one of those providers offers 7 million, Iâ€™m not married to the channel, but itâ€™s an asset, so Iâ€™m with the 4..â€™
Commissioner Blair then offered Bright house a deal where they would pay 3 million dollars in exchange for the removal of one of the cable access channels, reducing the total number to 3â€”bright house was willing to do this. Since Verizon currently has no customers, they couldnâ€™t be given the same offer, so instead, Blair repeatedly asked Verizon to guarantee they would not pass on additional channel fees to consumers in the future, but Sam Presara from Verizon refused
ACT â€œthis is a big county.wall street journal, we cant have other counties asking us to do thisâ€¦â€™
The commission ended up voting 6 to 1 approving the contract with Verizon, which will include 4 PEG channels, and on of additional fees to the subscribers. Commissioner Blair was the one no vote. Commissioner Storms also asked county staff to look into polling county residents outside of Tampa as to which of the 6 channels currently available in Tampa they would like to have as their 4 channels.