MA: Strong Opposition to Verizon Bill at Cable Franchising Hearing

Posted on June 7, 2007 - 6:38am.

from: CCTV

Strong Opposition to Verizon Bill at Cable Franchising Hearing

I recently returned from the first half of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy hearing on cable franchising in Gardner Auditorium at the MA State House today. The near capacity-filled room was dotted with bright yellow, green, and pink stickers that read, "Don't Mess with Access" worn by opponents of the bill.

City and state representatives from across Massachusetts, including Falmouth, Metheun, Somerville, Arlington, Yarmouth, Lowell, Fitchburg, Woburn, Amherst, Stoneham, Deerfield, Ipswich, Bourne, Brookline, Boston, and many other cities, testified in opposition to Verizon's legislative attempt at changing the rules of cable franchising laws that have been in place and "are working fine" (as many local representatives explained) for the past 30 years. The Massachusetts Municipal Association played a key role in organizing these public testimonies.

A representative from Cape Cod's cable franchise commission told the committee that if the state allows Verizon's bill to become law they "will lose access to quality of service and vital lines to our Democracy." He added that Falmouth already passed a resolution opposing the legislation and closed his remarks by asking the committee, "Please don't take away a community's right to decide what they need."

Glenn Gibbs of the Ipswich Planning Office told the committee that his town strongly opposes the bill and is concerned about its lack of build out requirement. A representative from Northborough reminded the committee that PEG access TV is the "first line of communications for catastrophic events" that can immediately go out to the community for life saving situations. And the Mayor of Woburn testified that it was Verizon that was holding up the cable franchising process in their city. He also added the PEG access TV provides a great asset to cities in towns across the state.

A representative from Natick told the committee that after they negotiated their agreement with Verizon it took the company four months to turn on their PEG access TV channels. He added that public access TV is "the voice of the people" and this bill does not represent the people.

Sen. Pat Jehlen of Sommerville testified that she has been invovled with access for a long time. SCAT was one of the first public access TV stations in the state of massachusetts. Sen. Jehlen told the committee that the Verizon bill, "would prevent Sommerville from the benefits of access."

A member of Arlington's Board of Selectman told the committee that his (my) town has three licenses, Comcast, RCN, and now Verizon. He said that Arlington was able to negotiate their cable franchise agreement in 4-5 months and told the commitee "I'm not sure what the problem is". For Arlington, he said, 4-5 months seemed like plenty of time to negotiate a franchise agreement. But, he added that he could not speak on behalf of other cities or towns with regards to their negotiating needs.

By 11:45 AM, an hour and forty-five minutes later, the committee was still hearing opposition to the bill. Shortly after (just as I had to leave) representatives from Verizon had finally sat down to begin testifying in front of the committee to give their support for the(ir) bill. While I wasn't unfortunately able to hear the Verizon representatives' point of view, as well as, many of the constituent testimonies from across the state, I look forward to reading others' accounts of the day - hopefully in the local press.

There were also at least, by my count, close to 10 different video cameras around the room recording the proceedings. Hopefully someone will post the video (or at least the last half with constituent testimonies that I missed : ) online either at their public access TV center's website, through YouTube, or some other public digital video platform. Please! (thanks).