May 2016 | Mike Reardon
State Legislative Action Still Up in the Air
It is befitting that our State Capitol is poised high upon a hill in St. Paul. With only days left to go before its scheduled adjournment on May 23, most major legislative issues are still up in the air – including those that concern MACTA.
While there has not been a bill proposed this year that is of deep concern for MACTA – such as past attempts to enact statewide cable franchising – there are still a few bills we’ve been closely monitoring to ensure that they do not negatively impact our members and local governments.
With a couple of exceptions, most bills that have garnered MACTA’s attention this year have been piled into the Senate and House Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill (OSBB). Piled is a befitting term, given the term “omnibus” is synonymous with compilation. I can see a legislator saying, “Gee, I’m not quite sure what to do with this bill. Hey, I know, I’ll just make it a part of the omnibus bill.” While the House and Senate OSBB is focused on providing supplemental funding, it truly is a place where seemingly almost anything will land.
Among the pile are former individual bills pertaining to solar power, tractor rollover protection, avian influenza, managing minerals, surplus land, and my favorite – aquatic macrophyte. Oh, and of course, legislation related to numerous broadband funding options and development. For example, voice-over-internet protocol service (VoIP) (which includes the “MACTA amendment” excluding video/cable under the VoIP definition) and small cell/tower siting initiatives.
At this writing, it is hard to tell what will become of any of the legislation referenced above. We should hopefully know by Monday, May 23, when the legislature is set to adjourn. I just hope they adopt aquatic macrophyte as the new term for macro algae.
To help explain what this all means, even perhaps why the State needs a new term for macro algae, our esteemed legislative and policy panel of experts will be presenting at MACTA’s 33rd Annual Conference on June 9. (Nice segue, huh? Bet you didn’t see that shameless plug for the conference coming.) Of course, there will be six other sessions not dealing with legislative policies. So, please come and learn, see some familiar faces, make some new friends, and learn about aquatic plants. Err, I mean about MACTA stuff!
April 2016 | Mike Reardon
May 23, 2016 is an Important Date for MACTA Members.
Ok, so you may ask, “Mike, why is May 23 an important date for me as a MACTA member?” Besides the fact that May 23 is National Lucky Penny Day. (Where do they come up with these?) And the date Benjamin Franklin announced his invention of bifocals. (Thanks, Ben!) This year May 23 has additional significance.
First, May 23 is the last day members can receive the “early bird” reduced registration rate for MACTA’s 2016 Annual Conference (June 9). This is a 22 percent reduction off the normal member rate – so please make sure you take advantage of it!
May 23 is also important for Minnesotans in general, and specifically for agencies that may be affected by new legislation. This is the date the Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to adjourn. Ok, so maybe not as important as National Taffy Day, (yep on May 23 as well), but nevertheless, it is the day we learn what this year’s legislative session has brought.
As noted in last month’s e-Brief, it appears there will be no significant legislation that will cause MACTA members to lose any sleep. However, it is hoped the legislature will expedite, and perhaps make retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year, sales tax relief for joint powers entities such as cable commissions. Please note that this decision may not happen until the 11th hour of the session as part of the comprehensive Budget Bill.
Other legislation we’ve been closely monitoring is now lumped into the House Omnibus Jobs Finance Bill - HF 3931. This bill outlines the House’s vision for additional broadband funding and funding eligibility.
At this writing, according to our lobbyist Joe Bagnoli, “The differences between the House and Senate [legislative bill versions] are currently enormous. Thus, it is not entirely clear how the two bodies and the Governor will come together in an agreement by the end of session.”
HF 3931 also contains language for telephone deregulation and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services. This is the second year these two bills have been considered and the “MACTA Amendment,” (added during last year’s session to protect LFAs cable franchising rights under State Statute Sec. 238), is still included on page 69, Lines 17-22. Our amendment exempts video services delivered by any cable communications system, cable service or any other IP-Enabled video service.
One thing that may not be decided by the Legislature by May 23 is the status of regulating small cell towers. A bill promoted by the wireless industry was introduced that would have significant impact on how local governments can regulate the placement and location of small cell towers in their communities. The League of Minnesota Cities quickly defended local government’s authority in these matters and MACTA has signed on with other similar associations. It appears this matter will be considered by a task force after the session is adjourned.
So, please do not forget to circle May 23 on your calendars, and pick up a lucky penny, eat some taffy and register for MACTA’s June 9 Annual Conference. And to think, this all occurs on a Monday!
March 2016 | Mike Reardon
As of this writing, Minnesota’s legislature has only been in session for little over a week – but there are already a few bills on which MACTA has made its position known.
S.F. 2249 – Municipal Sales Tax Exemption: Accelerate Effective Date (Companion to HF 2387)
In 2013, the State legislature reinstated its sales tax exemption for most units of local government – BUT not all. Unfortunately, for MACTA members structured as cable commissions and established through joint powers agreements, the 2013 legislation classified them as “special districts,” which did not qualify for the sales tax break.
This “special district” classification has financially impacted nearly 80 government agencies represented by MACTA that are serving under the umbrella of a joint powers agreement.
This loophole was supposed to be corrected during the 2015 legislative session, and take effect at the start of 2016. However, during the last minutes of the 2015 session, this sales tax loophole was continued through this year.
SF 2249 (companion to HF 2387) is intended to retroactively remedy this situation, and provide the sales tax exemption effective at the beginning of this year, not waiting until Jan. 1, 2017.
MACTA has already submitted a letter to the Senate Tax Reform Division urging them to approve and move forward with SF 2249 as drafted.
S.F. 2447 - Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Eligibility Regulation and Appropriation.
Over the past two years, the legislature has funded the State’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program, administered by the State’s Office of Broadband Development. The funding has been approximately $20 million in 2014 and $10 million in 2015.
The intent of this funding is to award matching grants to providers, including municipal broadband operations, to provide broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of greater Minnesota.
This year, Governor Dayton has requested the amount be increased to $100 million, while the House has offered a bill requesting $30 million. In addition, the Governor’s Broadband Task Force recommends funding $200 million, evenly split over the next two years.
S.F. 2447, authored by Sen. Matt Schmit, includes the recommendations from the Governor’s Broadband Task Force, including funding.
MACTA supports S.F. 2447 and has signed on with the League of Minnesota Cities and other local government-related agencies expressing our support for S.F. 2447.
Bill Tracking and Monitoring
MACTA will continue to monitor these two bills, and any others that may impact our members. Depending on what happens at the Capitol, we may ask you to take a specific action on a bill.
As has been past practice, each Friday throughout the session, MACTA’s lobbyists Joe Bagnoli and Sarah Psick with McGrann Shea, will provide their weekly Capitol Update Report to MACTA members. The updates provide an overview of general key legislative activities during the past week.
In addition, they also track any legislation (Session Tracker) that has a hint of cable, telecom or broadband in the bills.
Both the Capitol Update Report and Session Tracker can be accessed by logging in to MACTA’s Members Only section at www.mactamn.org.
February 2016 | Mike Reardon
While it may not be necessary to lock the doors and bar the windows, you may want to prepare to take cover at noon, on Tuesday, March 8. For that is when the Minnesota Legislature convenes for 2016.
All joking aside, there will be a lot of activity starting the minute the 2016 session is gaveled to convene. In fact, there have already been numerous State legislative committee meetings with bills being drafted and lined up for introduction once business officially starts. So, does any of this pre-session activity have any impact on our MACTA’s members? Well… yes it might.
MACTA Supports HF2387 - Acceleration of Sales Tax Exemption for Joint Powers Boards
Of keen interest to all members who operate as a joint powers board/commission, HF2387 will be introduced – attempting to expedite the ability for joint powers boards/commissions to be exempt from paying sales tax.
A couple of years ago, the State agreed to exempt local government entities from paying sales tax; however, they failed to include joint powers entities under that provision. Last year, legislation was passed that would exempt joint powers entities affective January 2017. HF 2387 is intended to either make the exemption retroactive to January 2016, or provide for an earlier exemption date than January 2017. The MACTA Board supports this legislation and will work with the League of Minnesota Cities in an attempt to get it passed.
MACTA Supports $100 Million in Broadband Funding in Minnesota
Another position officially taken by the MACTA Board at our February meeting was to support Governor Dayton’s request to provide an additional $100 million in grant funds for broadband development to unserved and underserved areas of Minnesota.
The grant funds would be administered by the Office of Broadband Development. The Governor’s Broadband Task Force also recommends, as part of its 2015 annual report to the Governor, that $200 million be appropriated over the next two years for the same activities. This is in contrast to HF2381, which proposes $35 million for broadband – 60 percent to unserved and 40 percent to underserved areas.
Blandin on Broadband’s Community Broadband Assessment Tool
Speaking of broadband, Blandin on Broadband (a chapter of the Blandin Foundation), has introduced a new, online Community Broadband Assessment tool. According to Blandin’s Ann Treacy,
“With a focus on broadband infrastructure and services, the assessment helps a community determine where it stands in comparison to other communities as it relates to access to main Internet points of presence, fiber availability to key institutions and business customers, competitive pricing and available broadband speeds.
In addition, the tool helps communities consider the ubiquity of broadband within their whole county or market area and whether they can count on their broadband service providers as community partners.”
The assessment is available online. Blandin suggests a community gather and discuss the information, then complete the assessment online. If you are a community considering how to approach broadband options, you may wish to check out this new tool.
MACTA Well Served for a Decade by McGrann Shea
I assume there will be other pieces of legislation coming forward over the next several weeks, and again this session (as has been the case since 2007) Joe Bagnoli and Sarah Psick from the firm of McGrann Shea will be representing MACTA’s member’s interest on the “Hill.” You can expect regular updates from them as the session moves forward.
January 2016 | Mike Reardon
I’m not sure who said it, (maybe it was me?), but, “If you don’t toot your own horn, chances are no one else will.” With that said, Toot! Toot!
MACTA had another great, busy year, and I am proud to share with you our 2015 activities and accomplishments! Many were significant changes in how MACTA operates that should provide overarching benefits to the organization – hopefully for years to come.
Change in Membership Dues Structure
As you all know, MACTA’s focus has expanded dramatically since its inception in 1983. No longer does MACTA only advocate in matters pertaining to cable franchising and PEG. Today, we also focus on issues and activities pertaining to telecommunications, broadband, rights-of-way and wireless at the local, state and national levels.
As a result of this broadening landscape, and to keep pace with the ever-changing telecommunications world, the Board of Directors realized that a change to MACTA’s dues structure from a “cable subscriber model” to a “population-based model” was required. With a couple of minor exceptions, this change (implemented on 2016 membership dues) had no impact on rates paid by members. However, it will enable MACTA to continue to meet its members’ demands for the foreseeable future.
In 2015, the Board of Directors also conducted a thorough internal examination of “what we do,” and “how we do it” when it comes to serving members. This self-assessment helped shape our request for proposals for an association management firm.
From those proposals, MACTA chose to retain The Harrington Company (THC) as our new association management firm, replacing Ewald, which had served MACTA well for a number of years. THC, located in St. Louis Park, will help us continue to fine-tune the services we provide to members, reduce costs and provide efficiencies.
MACTA also conducted a membership survey to get a sense as to how well we are serving our members. I am extremely glad to learn that nearly 90 percent of you believe that “MACTA provides value.” If you haven’t had the chance to review the survey results, I encourage you to look at them here. While of course, we would prefer a 100 percent response, we can at minimum know that we are on the right track – with room for improvement.
Last year, we produced 12 monthly “eBrief” newsletters, which provided timely updates on a variety of useful and informative topics. According to the Member Survey, 91 percent of respondents said “The eBrief contains useful and relevant content.”
The Defunct Comcast/Time Warner/Greatland Merger
One of MACTA’s other significant endeavors actually started in 2014 and concluded in 2015. MACTA provided the coordination of a large financial review of the pending Comcast-Time Warner-Greatland transfers of ownership. Twelve organizations participated, and with MACTA serving as the coordinator, they were able to save money by pooling the funds to retain an outside consultant. In the end, the consultants findings were not necessarily used by most members as Comcast cancelled the proposed transfers based on a variety of factors.
A possible carry-over from the proposed transfer is a condition requested by MACTA during its FCC filings. While MACTA took no position on whether the FCC should approve or deny the transfer, MACTA DID request that Comcast’s Internet Essentials program benefits be extended to senior citizens who meet income qualifications as a part of any transfer of ownership. Obviously, MACTA cannot take sole credit, but Comcast is now considering an extension of these benefits to seniors.
MACTA participated in several other regulatory matters in 2015 that had the potential for positive outcomes, or possibly negated negative ones:
- While Minnesota legislation HF776/SF895 was not adopted last year, it was introduced to deregulate VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) service, with the intent to only affect State Chapter 237 (telecommunications). However, the bill’s initial definition of VoIP included voice, data AND video. MACTA proposed a language amendment, excluding “video services provided by a cable communications system, as defined in Section 238 … or cable service as defined in [US code] … or any other IP-enabled video service,” which was added to the bill and referred to as the “MACTA Amendment.”
- Authored May 15 Letter to FCC - Amendment to the Commission’s [FCC] Rules Concerning Effective Competition and Implementation of Section 111 of the STELA Reauthorization Act, MB Docket No. 15-53
Authored April 14 Letter to the Minnesota’s Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Budget Committee members to ensure that funding for the state Office of Broadband and a continuation of the Border-to-Border matching broadband grants program would be included in the final state budget for the next biennium.
- Assisted with Jodie Miller’s Feb. 15 presentation to the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband regarding the value of Institutional Networks.
- I am currently serving as MACTA’s liaison with League of Minnesota Cities and Chair their Telecom Task Force. I also sit on LMC’s Local Economies Policy Committee.
- Continued to develop MACTA’s relationship with the Blandin Foundation’s broadband efforts in greater Minnesota, and recently officially endorsed the Blandin Broadband mission statement, “Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.”
- Finally, as requested and necessary, MACTA continued to work closely with its sister organization NATOA (National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors).
As you can see, MACTA continues to be at the table on a variety of legislative and policy activities, both state and federal. And, as our recent survey noted, half of the respondents indicated “protecting MACTA’s member’s policy interests” is their number one priority. We aim to continue to do so in 2016.
Last, but definitely not the least, MACTA held its annual conference in June with approximately 110 in attendance. We are currently busy planning our next annual conference for June 9.
Phew…. Like I said, we were busy in 2015 and expect to be busy again this year. Regardless, you can be assured the MACTA Board of Directors will continue to look for ways to improve our services and protect your interests. Wishing you all a happy, and perhaps a bit less stressful, new year!
December 2015 | Mike Reardon
A Big Thank You to Mike Johnson and a Hearty Welcome to Reg Dunlap!
Mike Johnson, Executive Director for the Northwest Suburbs Cable Communications Commission, will be stepping down from the MACTA Board of Directors at the end of the year. Mike served for two years (which, by the way, was his second stint on the board) and was co-chair of the Board’s Membership Committee.
During this time, he was instrumental in helping research and implement MACTA’s recent change in dues structure – from a cable subscriber model to a population-based model. His hard work helped ensure MACTA’s dues structure continued to be the best representation of its membership base into the future.
Mike, it was a pleasure having you on the board. Your years of experience will be missed.
Speaking of years of experience (ever feel like you might have been at this job awhile…?) the Board and MACTA members are blessed to have Reg Dunlap agree to serve his second tour on the board.
Reg previously served one term from 1998-2000. Reg, who has served as the City of St. Louis Park’s Civic TV Coordinator since 1988, was elected at MACTA’s recent annual business meeting and will take a seat on the board in January. Thankfully, Reg has eagerly agreed (without even being asked) to take Mike’s place as chair of the Membership Committee. Welcome aboard Reg!
MACTA Welcomes New Management Firm
As noted in last month’s e-Brief, The Harrington Company (THC) will take over managing the daily activities of MACTA on Jan. 1. THC is as excited in serving as our new management firm as we are to have them! A transition plan was implemented in late October between our current firm, Ewald & Associates and THC. It is expected to be complete prior to the end of the year.
So, what does this mean to you as a member? Well, the transition and new operations should be seamless. MACTA’s website will not change, so you can continue to register and pay for conferences, membership dues, etc., in the same manner.
THC has years of management experience, so handling the annual conference and MACTA’s daily routines, which really on average are minimal, will be second nature to them. The only real difference you should note is MACTA’s new address and phone number.
If you prefer to mail your 2016 membership dues or conference registrations, please note our new contact information:
The Harrington Company
4248 Park Glen Road
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
I would also like to take this time to thank Ewald & Associates for years of great service to the Board and MACTA members. In one form or another, MACTA and Ewald go back to the early 1990s, when MACTA hired Office Enterprises Inc. (OEI) as its first management firm. OEI was owned by John Arlandson, who agreed to merge OEI into Ewald in 2008. Ewald & Associates have provided MACTA with great services over the years, and we have worked with some wonderful people at Ewald. I wish them all the best.
November 2015 | Mike Reardon
MACTA Retains New Management Association
For the past decade, MACTA has retained the association management firm of Ewald & Associates. You have probably noticed their name in emails and invoices – or met their staff at our conferences. However, for the most part, they have worked silently behind the scenes to ensure MACTA’s daily business activities function smoothly.
Earlier this year, it was amicably decided by both Ewald and the MACTA Board of Directors, that a change was best for both organizations. Primarily, as Ewald has grown into an international operation – (and MACTA is by far their smallest client) – the cost to provide MACTA with management services was becoming prohibitive for both parties.
As a result, the MACTA Board developed a comprehensive request for proposals, and conducted a thorough search for a firm that would fit our needs and pocketbook.
I am very pleased to announce that we have retained the services of The Harrington Company, based in St. Louis Park, Minn. While Ewald will continue to provide management services to MACTA through the end of the year, THC has also been retained so the transition process can commence. A transition plan has been executed, which will result in a hopefully seamless transition for our members.
The transition should not affect our website, conference planning or any other activities/services you utilize as a member. More information – including new telephone numbers, addresses, etc. for MACTA – will be provided to you before the end of the year.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to welcome The Harrington Company. We are looking forward to working with them.
October 2015 | Mike Reardon
MACTA’s Annual Membership Business Meeting and Board Elections are Thursday, Oct. 29
I truly hope you and/or a representative from your agency, is able to attend MACTA’s Annual Membership Business Meeting on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 4:30 pm. While the full agenda has not yet been determined, the following items will indeed be on the agenda for discussion:
- Review of MACTA’s activities and accomplishments over the past year
- The results of the membership survey
- Change in membership dues from a subscriber base to a population base
- Status of retaining a new management services firm
- Financial overview of the organization
In addition to these items, there will also be an election for three director seats on our board. Unfortunately, both Mike Johnson and Toby Keeler have decided not to run for another term. Their contributions and devotion to the board and MACTA will be sorely missed. My seat on the board, is the third seat whose term will expire at the end of the year.
Serving on the MACTA Board of Directors is a truly gratifying, educational and rewarding experience. Each director is expected to attend the monthly board conference call, lasting approximately one hour. In addition, each director serves on one of several active committees, including Communications, Membership, Conference, PEG and Legislative. The amount of time commitment for each of these committees varies, but it should be assumed it may add a couple of more hours to a person’s monthly schedule.
So, you can see the time commitment is definitely manageable – plus the benefits one receives with working with their fellow colleagues on activities and issues that affect each of us in our professional lives is worth every moment.
If you are interested in serving on the MACTA Board starting in 2016, with a term of only two years, then please contact me to let me know of your interest. I will also gladly attempt to answer any questions you may have.
I look forward to hopefully seeing many of my fellow MACTA friends and colleagues at our annual business meeting:
Thursday, October 29 at 4:30 p.m.
North Suburban Cable Commission Office
2670 Arthur Street, Roseville, Minn.
September 2015 | Mike Reardon
MACTA Serves as Telecommunications Policy Experts by League of Minnesota Cities (LMC)
MACTA and the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) have had a long standing affiliation. In fact, at my very first MACTA Annual Conference in 1988 – (yeah, I know some of you reading this may not have been born yet) – Ann Higgins (former LMC government relations/lobbyist) was a keynote speaker.
Over the years, as LMC has gone through its annual process of revising and adopting legislative policies, they have sought MACTA’s expertise on policy matters related to cable, broadband, telecommunications, etc.
On behalf of MACTA and the City of Saint Paul, I have served on the LMC’s Improving Local Economies (ILE) Policy Committee for the past 10 years. The ILE Policy Committee is one of four committees the LMC relies on to annually review and establish policy recommendations for the LMC board to consider each November. In all, the LMC has more than 150 different policies covering the gambit of municipal issues. The ILE is home to five policies relating to MACTA’s main interests: Telecommunications, Cable Franchising, Rights-of-Way, Broadband, and Towers and Antennas.
Several years ago, the LMC established the Telecommunications Task Force. One of this group’s responsibilities is to advise the LMC on the previously mentioned policies. MACTA has had good representation on the task force, with members including Tom Garrison (Eagan) as the initial chair, Jodie Miller (NDC4), Cor Wilson (NSCCC), Lisa Veith (St. Paul) and yours truly. (For the past two years I have chaired the task force.) The group is also represented by other LMC members – both municipal elected officials and staff – as well as members of the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association and Metro Cities Association.
This year, the task force reviewed the five ILE policy, LE-15 through LE-19, and provided minor tweaks to them. It was determined the policies were, for the most part, still very timely and accurate portrayals of the general legislative landscape. On Sept. 15, the ILE approved these minor changes. The LMC membership has the opportunity to review all policy statements and proposed recommendations during the month of October, prior to the board’s final adoption in November.
The task force also agreed, that while these policies are sufficient to address any matters which may arise during the 2016 Minnesota Legislative Session, the group should meet again this fall to start preparing for long-range planning concerning the changing Minnesota telecommunications regulatory landscape. While there is not much to share at this time – nor any concerns for alarm – it can be assumed over the next several years there will be legislation introduced, most certainly at the federal level and possibly at the state level as well. MACTA and the LMC want to be fully prepared in the event this happens.
August 2015 | Mike Reardon
MACTA’s Annual Membership Business Meeting is Thursday, Oct. 29
I am pleased to announce the 2015 MACTA Annual Business Meeting will be held on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 4:30 pm at the North Suburban Cable Commission offices in Roseville (2670 Arthur St.).
As you may recall, until last year, the annual business meeting was held as part of our annual conference – traditionally in the fall. The timing of incorporating our business meeting into the fall conference made sense, since MACTA’s fiscal operations and the Board of Director’s terms coincide with the calendar year.
With NATOA’s annual conference being held last September/October in Saint Paul, MACTA chose to move its own annual conference to June. The annual business meeting was kept in the fall during the NATOA conference, since many of our members were in attendance.
Once the annual business meeting had been separated from the conference, both the MACTA Board of Directors and Conference Planning Committee realized its absence provided additional time for learning opportunities/sessions during the conference.
The spring conference also saw increased attendance versus our traditional fall date. Thus, the Board decided to keep the conference in June – and forgo trying to squeeze in the business meeting. Instead, the Board agreed to move it to a fall timeframe as a standalone opportunity for members to gather to review and discuss MACTA’s operations, etc.
While this might have been much more background information than you wanted to know, I believe it is important to explain the reasons for holding the business meeting as a standalone event. As for this year’s date and location, the Board recognized that a portion of our members would already be attending the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC) annual conference in Saint Paul on Oct. 29. This meant at least a portion of our members can just travel ten minutes up the road at the conclusion of the MAGC conference.
More information on the business meeting will be available in our September e-Brief. Please mark your calendars now for MACTA’s Business Meeting on Oct. 29. It will be a great opportunity to share your thoughts and concerns with both the Board and your fellow members. And in this case, a great opportunity to network too! See you then!
July 2015 | Mike Reardon
Cable Competition is Finally Coming to the Twin Cities Market
Year in and year out, one of the most consistent complaints I address as a cable administrator is the lack of wireline cable competition available to residents. I lost count years ago how many times I explained to someone filing a complaint:
“Yes, I understand your frustration thinking the City has an exclusive franchise with (fill in the cable company name)… but actually, federal and state law (as well as our franchise) prohibit the City from granting an exclusive franchise. In fact, the City welcomes competition.”
Sound familiar cable officials? Yes, there has been satellite competition, which definitely has impacted the cable market. Most recently, we’ve also seen over-the-top internet options providing an alternative. But, until this year, the Twin Cities market has not experienced head-to-head competition from another wireline cable provider.
Now, with CenturyLink seeking cable franchises for its “Prism” video services in the Twin Cities market, municipalities and cable commissions are finally being asked to consider granting a second cable franchise.
To many, granting a competitive cable franchise to CenturyLink seems like it should be a very simple task for Local Franchise Authorities (LFAs). After all, don’t we all want competition? However, granting a second franchise requires significant due diligence from each LFA – and the list of challenging issues seems to grow with each passing meeting.
To actually negotiate a second franchise with CenturyLink, LFAs must take into consideration how it may impact their current franchise provisions, and how a CenturyLink franchise should address State law provisions regarding build out. (The area within the LFA’s territory that is required to be serviced by the operator.)
Franchise requirements regarding build out have proven to be the most challenging both legally and politically. Minnesota State law appears to require complete build out from the competitor within five years. CenturyLink, on the other hand, has argued that State law may be preempted by federal laws and regulations. They have suggested a “marketplace success” model to address build-out concerns.
Generally this means that as CenturyLink gains subscribers, its obligation to build out will increase.
The City of Minneapolis was the first LFA in Minnesota to grapple with these issues. After careful consideration of the build-out issue, and other questions related to the incumbent cable franchise held by Comcast, the Minneapolis City Council granted a franchise to CenturyLink. Here's a link to a summary of the franchise
. As a result, CenturyLink has begun offering its Prism service in portions of Minneapolis.
Some of the policy questions regarding competitive cable franchising are new to LFA elected officials. It is not as simple as one may think to grant a second cable franchise. Consider the following:
- Is competition in a portion of a community, but potentially not the entire community, better than no completion at all?
- How are institutional networks addressed?
- What about PEG issues? (i.e. channels (HD/SD), interconnections, channel location, technical quality, financial support, live originations)
- How does each LFA address compliance with State law?
- What reaction can the LFAs expect from the incumbent cable operator?
LFAs remain motivated by a desire to place the interests of the residential cable subscribers first, while at the same time securing a commitment to maintain the essential local services cable operators have provided in Minnesota for more than 30 years. Each LFA must make the decision that they feel is right for their community.
Thankfully, MACTA’s members are well represented by some of the finest attorneys who represent local government on cable franchising matters. How each LFA eventually addresses whether to grant CenturyLink a competitive cable franchise, and how the second franchise is structured, is still a local matter. No different than each LFA’s current franchise.
June 2015 | Mike Reardon
The MACTA Board of Directors is in the process of soliciting proposals for a new Association Management Services (AMS) firm.
You may or may not be aware that MACTA has retained the service of an AMS since the 1990s. As MACTA continued to grow in the 80s and 90s, the board at the time realized it would need to hire a firm specializing in the management of small non-profits (such as MACTA). There was just too much “day-to-day” MACTA work for volunteer board members to do on their own, and to continue functioning at the high level expected by members.
An AMS is a very common solution for non-profits who cannot directly hire a full-time executive director. These firms provide full office management of the organization while allowing the board of directors (who in MACTA’s case are employed full-time with cities/cable commissions) to focus their attention on their “day jobs.” This also allows board members to continue to volunteer their time to help lead the non-profit. This relationship has continued to work very well over the past two decades.
During the last contract negotiation with Ewald & Associates (MACTA’s current and long-time AMS) in 2013, the board realized it would be very prudent to take a look at what exactly MACTA is and should be requiring of its AMS. Since our organization had not requested updated quotes from other companies for a number of years, the board decided 2015 would be a good time to solicit a Request for Proposals (RFP). This led to the board assessing the types of services MACTA provides to its members, which helped shape the scope of services it would seek through the RFP process.
The RFP was recently approved by the board, and will be sent to a list of potential applicants. Recently, in a very cordial but candid discussion between myself and Bill Monn from Ewald, we mutually agreed MACTA’s scope of services would probably be best served by a smaller AMS. (Ewald has substantially grown over the years, becoming an international AMS, and MACTA might be its smallest client.) So, while Ewald will not be responding to our RFP, they have assured the board they will assist us in the transition to a new AMS, helping to make it as smooth a move as possible.
The RFP will be “hitting the streets” sometime this week. It is the goal of the board to have the new AMS firm selected by September, with the new company ready to take over as MACTA’s AMS on January 1.
Please be assured the board is confident there are numerous AMS firms within the Twin Cities market that are very qualified to serve as MACTA’s next office management company. There will be no reduction of services, or quality, to our members. If you are aware of an AMS firm that should receive an RFP, please email me at email@example.com, and I will make sure they receive the RFP.
May 2015 | Mike Reardon
In the end, the Comcast transfers of ownership, were much to do about nothing … or were they?
As you all know, in February 2014, Comcast announced its intentions to merge with TimeWarner Cable. A month or so later, we learned that Comcast intended to “spin off” its franchise holdings in Minnesota to a company at that time called SpinCo. SpinCo went through a couple of renaming cycles, and eventually came out as GreatLand Connections. (For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to all of these actions as “transactions.”)
But, as you also know, last month, Comcast pulled the plug (I have to be careful not to say “cut the cord” …) on the transactions. Minnesota local franchise authorities (LFAs) spent a considerable amount of time, energy and money carefully reviewing Comcast’s transaction and, in some cases, the TimeWarner merger -- and how it all might impact communities served by Charter Communications.
So, now that the dust has settled, where does this leave us? Well, for the time being (and I stress “for the time being,” as consolidation in the cable/telecom industries is far from over) we still have the same companies in our communities.
However, for a lot of MACTA members served by Comcast, the transactions provided a great opportunity to get Comcast to the table to either negotiate a new franchise or extend the current one. It can be assumed if Comcast was not under the pressure to obtain the LFA’s transaction approvals in order to close the deal in Washington, most of the Comcast’s LFAs would likely still be facing a long and laborious renewal process. So, while the transactions process -- heaped on top of many LFAs already arduous renewal process -- created extra stress, in the end, it was perhaps worth it. Now, bring on CenturyLink!
Speaking of CenturyLink, the company will join Comcast and Charter to provide overviews of where their companies are headed during MACTA’s 31st Annual Conference on June 16. It will be a great opportunity to learn what new services, products, and possible expansion prospects each will be, or might be, considering. This session will be just the start of a great day of eight concurrent sessions, NATOA’s executive director’s keynote address, great exhibits and a chance to network with your peers. More information on the conference is provided in the e-Brief. I hope to see you there!
April 2015 | Mike Reardon
Office of Broadband Development, Border-to-Border Grant Nearly Hit Roadblock in House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee Budget
Mark Twain once said something along the lines of, “No one is safe when Congress is in session.” That was certainly the case recently as it relates to the funding of broadband initiatives in Minnesota.
Over the past several years, the State has provided funding to create the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development (OBD). Last year, legislators provided $20 million to jumpstart the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program, which is intended to expand broadband services to unserved and underserved regions in Minnesota. In the first-year, $19.4 million in grant funding was awarded.
In total, the grant funded 17 projects, bringing high-speed Internet to nearly 6,100 homes, 83 community institutions and hundreds of businesses statewide.
Following this momentous achievement, Gov. Dayton proposed increasing the grant program’s funding in 2015 to $30 million. Bills were introduced in the House and Senate, ranging from $50 million to $100 million. It seemed like broadband was finally on our State leaders’ radars!
But, this momentum nearly came to a halt when the House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee eliminated funding for both the grant program and for OBD.
MACTA, along with the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota High Tech Association, among others, quickly responded to this possible elimination of funding. Whether our actions – which included a hand-delivered letter from the MACTA Board of Directors to the Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Budget Committee members – had a direct impact is not certain. However, what is certain is the Senate committee restored funding for the OBD and recommended an appropriation of $17 million for another round of the broadband grants. The House Ways and Means committee also added $8 million for the Border-to-Border Grants, and restored the OBD in their bill.
The funding disparities between the House and Senate bills still need to be worked out, and MACTA will continue to closely monitor this situation as it moves forward.
To stay updated on this issue, as well as a dozen other pieces of legislation that are being debated this session, (which relate in some manner to cable, broadband and telecom policies), you are encouraged to check out MACTA’s weekly “2015 Regular Session Bills Tracker,” posted each Friday afternoon in the “Legislative Monitoring” section of our website. Note, the “Legislative Monitoring” section is only available to Members, so you will need to log in to the “Members Only” section of our site.
March 2015 | Mike Reardon
MACTA Has Influence on State Legislation
If anyone wonders if MACTA actually has an influence on legislative policy, that answer is YES!
For those that are unaware, currently, a State bill (HF776/SF895) is attempting to deregulate voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service. The intent is to only affect State Chapter 237 (telecommunications).
However, MACTA learned that the bill’s initial definition of VoIP included voice, data AND video. Even though MACTA was assured the bill would not deregulate or affect in any manner State Chapter 238 (cable franchising), the proposed bill nevertheless had the potential to create a slippery slope.
Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska), Chair of the Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee, informed those attending MACTA’s recent “Day at the Capitol” event, that the “MACTA amendment” was added to the bill to specifically address this concern.
The language, proposed by MACTA, states,“video services provided by a cable communications system, as defined in Section 238 … or cable service as defined in [US code] … or any other IP-enabled video service” would not be regulated under this chapter.
While this bill, also referred to as the AT&T –VoIP/IP Bill, may not go anywhere this year, the action to accept a MACTA amendment demonstrates the respect MACTA has garnered by our legislators. When a bill related to our concerns is being debated – the legislators are willing to listen to us!
The AT&T –VoIP Bill is one of only a half-dozen or so pieces of legislation that have been introduced during this session that in some manner touch upon MACTA’s area of interest. Thankfully, it appears none of the bills has any adverse effect on our membership.
Thanks go out to the good work being done by MACTA’s lobbyists, Sarah Psick and Joe Bagnoli, (McGrann & Shea). Because of them, MACTA is able to stay on top of what is happening on the “hill” in Saint Paul and, when necessary, offer amendments.
Please note, each Friday throughout the session, Joe and Sarah provide their weekly “Capitol Update Report” to MACTA members. The updates provide an overview of general key legislative activities during the past week. In addition, they also track those bills that have a hint of cable, telecom or broadband connected to them. Both the “Updates” and “Session Tracker” can be accessed by logging in to the Members Only section of MACTA’s website.
And finally, don’t forget that MACTA’s Annual Conference on Tuesday, June 16 (note date change) will hold its regular regulatory review session as part of the conference.
February 2015 | Mike Reardon
MACTA offers two great learning opportunities during the first half of this year.
First, if you have not yet registered for MACTA’s Day at the Capitol workshop on March 2, I’d encourage you to do so now! During this annual event, morning sessions provide an opportunity for our State Legislators to give up-to-date information on what the Minnesota Legislature is considering this session – especially as it may affect MACTA members. There will also be an update from the State’s Office of Broadband Development.
The afternoon then provides a great opportunity to schedule individual visits with your legislator(s). Many of our members often bring their cameras to record segments for their cable channels! MACTA will be providing key talking points and, if requested, assist you in meeting with your legislators.
To register for the conference, click here.
Then, on June 17, MACTA will hold its Annual Conference. Based on the positive response we received from holding the conference in June last year, the board has decided to go that route again. BUT, this year, we are at a new location that we think everyone will find better suites our organization’s needs.
The all-day event will be held at the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the University of Minnesota Saint Paul campus. While most of the details are still being worked out, you can be assured it will cover timely topics that affect your job on a daily basis. As a MACTA member, you will receive substantially reduced registration rates from non-members.
Speaking of membership – if you plan to attend the March 2 ‘Day at the Capitol,’ please renew your membership by Feb. 28! Memberships expire March 1 – and if you haven’t renewed – you will have to pay a non-membership rate to attend. …And, I wouldn’t want that to happen. Click here to renew your membership now.
I look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events!
January 2015 | Mike Reardon
In hindsight, 2014 was likely one of the busiest years for many MACTA members.
Just think, a year ago right now, a lot of us were either directly involved with franchise renewals, or preparing for one. Many of us are STILL working on them! This in itself can be daunting, but it was only the beginning of 2014.
In February, Comcast announced it was merging with Time Warner. Soon after, the news followed that Comcast would “spin” off its Twin Cities franchises to Spin Co… Who? Well, as we all know, a year later, we are still working on resolving Comcast’s transaction to Spin Co, err… I mean Midwest Cable…. No wait, make that GreatLand Connections. Of course, there are still major hurdles to jump in Washington D.C. before the Twin Cities market is home to GreatLand Connections.
For those who don’t know, MACTA submitted two separate filings to the FCC last year, outlining conditions we hope the agency will consider should it approve the Comcast/GreatLand Connections transaction. We also coordinated a financial analysis of the transaction on behalf of a dozen members.
This wasn’t the only big announcement that took place last year. Rumored for some time, CenturyLink finally announced it intended to enter the cable/video market in Minnesota. What this meant to the local franchise authorities (LFAs), and thus the public, wasn’t certain at the time. However, it should become much clearer as CenturyLink is finally... officially… approaching LFAs with proposed cable franchises. More on this as the first quarter of this year transpires!
Bottom line, if you felt like you were busy last year… you probably were! You probably will continue to be busy this year. Just remember, throughout it all, MACTA will continue to be a resource for its members. Please look to us for help! Oh, and also, please plan on attending both our “Day at the Capitol” event on March 2, and our Annual Conference on June 17.
December 2014 | Mike Reardon
Receiving the NATOA President Award for Chapter Excellence was just one of many accomplishments that capped off a very good year for MACTA. At its December planning retreat, the board of directors reviewed all of the organization’s 2014 highlights.
Based on my conversations with NATOA President Tony Perez (who had the presidential responsibility to select the NATOA state chapter to receive the 2014 award) there were MULTIPLE reasons why MACTA was chosen as the 2014 NATOA President Award for Chapter Excellence.
The efforts put forth by MACTA members to ensure a successful NATOA Annual Conference perhaps topped the list of reasons. To show their appreciation, the NATOA board of directors even called the MACTA board during our recent retreat – just to thank us for helping put on what they referred to as “NATOA’s most successful conference in quite a few years - in terms of both attendance and revenue.” However, the NATOA conference was only one of the many reasons, as our 2014 accomplishments can attest.
MACTA Annual Conference/Day at the Capitol
MACTA held its own annual conference in June, so as to not conflict with NATOA's fall conference in Saint Paul. Based on reviews and attendance, it appears to have been a very successful event. Because of the success of a late spring/early summer conference, the Board has decided to again hold our annual conference during that timeframe in 2015. The actual date and location are still being determined, but expect an announcement soon.
Additionally, our annual Day at the Capitol event in February was again a success – and we plan to hold it again in 2015 (even if the Capitol grounds may be a little “torn up” for construction!)
Other noteworthy accomplishments include:
- Authoring Two FCC Filings (Comcast Merger/Transactions & Wireless Tower Siting)
- Coordination of the Financial Analysis of the Comcast/Time Warner/Greatland Transactions
- Support of the Minnesota State Office of Broadband Funding Bill and the Reinstatement of the Moratorium on Tax for the Telecommunications Industry
- Keeping Members Informed with Monthly e-Brief Newsletter
- Began a Partnership with the Minnesota Association of Governments Communicators (MAGC) and its Northern Lights Awards Contest
- Worked a Membership Booth During the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference.
The board also reviewed goals for 2015 at its planning meeting. Members can look forward to a reinvigorated PEG program, timely e-Brief articles, potential networking events and continued educational programming.
…Hmmm, I wonder if MACTA can receive its fifth NATOA State Chapter award in 2015? Only time will tell, but based on the hard work of both the board and our members, it wouldn't surprise me.
And speaking of the board, at its December meeting, the board reelected its 2014 officers to serve an additional year. They are:
Yours Truly (Mike Reardon) as President
Janine Hill - Vice-President
Toby Keeler – Treasurer
Karen George - Secretary
The other board members for 2015 are Marty Doll, Mike Johnson and Lori Pulkrabek.
November 2014 | Mike Reardon
Thank you for being part of MACTA! Every November, I make it a point to take stock for what I am grateful – in both my personal and professional life. Included on both of these lists is my association with MACTA.
I assume, “being grateful for MACTA,” is not what most of you would consider for your list … if you have one … and that’s just fine. You see for me, MACTA is like friendly “Uncle Fred,” whom you may only see once a year at a family gathering – or perhaps when you need some help on a house project, and Uncle Fred is a handyman who never says no when asked to help.
MACTA is a lot like this. We hold our annual conference, which is perhaps the only opportunity we will get to see each other during the year. We share (network) what we’ve been doing, how things are going and perhaps an activity we hope to accomplish. We leave the event a bit more informed, not only from the information the speakers presented, but also, maybe from a useful tidbit you picked up when speaking to your colleagues. Sort of like when Aunt Margie gives you the recipe for her incredibly delicious apple pie.
Hopefully for many of you, MACTA has been that “handy” resource – especially this past year with renewals, transfers of ownership, FCC rulings, and CenturyLink’s possible entrance into the cable market. Yes, it truly has been a remarkably busy year for MACTA members, and MACTA does its best to stay on top of what is happening and to serve its member’s needs.
Some of the best “value” you can receive from MACTA, but may not be taking advantage of, is the monthly MACTA Legislative Committee conference calls. A lot of useful information is exchanged during these calls, some of which you will not see printed in MACTA’s e-Brief simply because of its confidential nature. If you, or someone from your agency, are not participating in these calls, please contact me and I will add you to the list.
Speaking of lists, I would like to extend a hearty THANK YOU to those who have made MACTA the only NATOA state chapter to receive “Chapter of the Year” four times! I have had the great honor to serve not only as your MACTA President, but to work with a great Board of Directors. Their dedication is truly remarkable.
Our organization’s management association, Ewald & Associates, continues to provide the sound, daily support we need to maintain MACTA’s operation. McGrann Shea, (Joe Bagnoli and Sarah Psick) our agency’s lobbying firm, always provides great insight on what is happening on the “Hill” and guidance on how we should respond. MACTA’s affiliation with the League of Minnesota Cities, whom we work with closely on a variety of legislative topics and issues, is an important relationship that benefits both organizations. The same is true for NATOA, who provides MACTA with guidance and assistance on national issues.
Finally, but definitely not least, I am grateful for all MACTA members and your continued support to “our” organization. Without you, there would be no MACTA.
So yes, MACTA is definitely on my gratitude list. From the MACTA Board of Directors, Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family and your entire organization.
October 2014 | Mike Reardon
MACTA and Minnesota Receive Accolades at 2014 NATOA Conference in Saint Paul
I am very pleased to announce that – from all reports I’ve received from NATOA conference attendees and the NATOA board/staff – NATOA’s annual conference held in Saint Paul was a huge success! Since it would be impossible to acknowledge every MACTA member who helped without possibly overlooking someone, just assume if you had a hand in helping with the conference this BIG. THANK. YOU! is for you.
While the conference was a great success from a NATOA perspective, there were several accolades bestowed by the NATOA Board of Directors that definitely had a local flair.
MACTA Chapter of the Year!
First, and foremost, I am very proud to note that MACTA received NATOA’s “President’s Award for Chapter Excellence.” NATOA President Tony Perez listed numerous reasons why MACTA was so deserving of this distinction. Besides MACTA’s involvement and contributions to the annual conference, other reasons he highlighted included:
- MACTA holding two annual conferences and the Day at the Capital event, all within the past 12 months,
- Coordination of numerous MACTA members involvement in the financial analysis of the Comcast transactions,
- Submission of two FCC filings (Tower Siting proceeding and Comcast/Time Warner merger)
This award not only reflects the dedicated work the MACTA Board of Directors and staff have provided over the past year, but also the commitment that all of our members bring to work each and every day. You ensure Minnesota has well-administered cable franchises and some of the best community television operations in the country. This is the fourth time MACTA has received this award, including being the initial recipient in 1993. Congratulations to all, and, thank you NATOA President Perez for recognizing us!
Minnesota Has Two Broadband Heroes
Congratulations to Minnesota Senator Matt Schmit (Red Wing) and Minnesota Representative Erik Simonson (Duluth) who were recognized by NATOA as the organization’s “Broadband Heroes of the Year.”
In part, the legislators received this honor “For courageously authoring and championing the Border to Border Broadband Fund bill that passed in the Minnesota Legislature, [2014 session] and securing $20 million dollars in funding that helps remove barriers to opportunities for much-needed broadband development across the state.”
What made this award even sweeter was the fact that FCC Chair Thomas Wheeler was present to see it being presented, and during his keynote address, Wheeler singled out the two gentlemen by noting, "It's leadership like this that we've got to export to the other 49 states." I totally agree!
Cor Wilson Receives NATOA’s Brian Wilson Memorial Award
It was my great honor and pleasure to stand at the podium with MACTA past president and current NATOA board member Jeff Leuders when he surprised Coralie Wilson with the presentation of NATOA’s “Brian Wilson Memorial Award.”
The Brian Wilson Memorial Award for Programming Excellence is annually presented to a NATOA PEG “programmer for displaying the leadership and values that Brian practiced during his years of dedicated service” in the area of PEG programming. Brian, who was a devoted PEG programmer in San Francisco, passed away unexpectedly a little over ten years ago. NATOA has since recognized a person each year who has a long history in the development of community programming.
Cor's career in public access and cable franchise administration started in 1983 at Miami Valley Council (Ohio), where for eight years she oversaw a nine-city consortium responsible for cable franchising. In 1991, she assumed the executive director position at North Suburban Cable Commission/North Suburban Access Corporation, a 10-city consortium north of Saint Paul.
Throughout her entire career, either as executive director or MACTA and NATOA president, she has been a staunch supporter of PEG access and has constantly championed the value it brings to communities. She is truly the embodiment of what the Brian Wilson Memorial Award is all about.
September 2014 | Mike Reardon
MACTA, working with the League of Minnesota Cities and the State’s Office of Broadband Development, nominated the legislators for their recent efforts. They will receive the awards as part of the NATOA conference’s keynote luncheon, which will be given by FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. Let’s make sure we have a large Minnesota contingency at the luncheon to give them a well-deserved thunderous round of applause!
DEED Statewide Broadband Tour
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is kicking off its Statewide Broadband Tour. State leaders will conduct informational meetings about the new Broadband Grant Program that will expand broadband to unserved or underserved areas. For further information, including locations and dates, click here.
Farewell to Laura Cook
On a personal note, I would like to thank Laura Cook for her past 4 plus years of services on the MACTA Board of Directors. Laura, who not only served during her time on the Board as both the Treasurer and Secretary, was also instrumental in helping with PEG committee activities as its Chair. Unfortunately, Laura had to resign when her husband took a job in Maine. We wish her the best.
Also, on behalf of the MACTA Board of Directors I wish to pass along our condolences to Greg Donovan’s family and to the Ramsey/Washington Suburban Cable Commission (RWSCC). Greg, who had served on the RWSCC since 2009, passed away on July 3. Our deepest sympathies.
June 2014 | Mike Reardon
For the past few months, I have alerted MACTA members of the pending Comcast/Time Warner merger, and the proposed divestiture of Comcast in the Twin Cities market to SpinCo/Charter. As of this writing, local franchise authorities (LFAs) have yet to receive the required “394 Transfer of Ownership” documents. These documents must be submitted by Comcast to each affected LFA. MACTA strongly advises each LFA get legal advice on how to proceed with the 394 transfer process.
MACTA has also recognized the significance of this transfer, and is taking initial steps to assist those members potentially affected.
Revised Session at Annual Conference
First, MACTA has revised one of its sessions at the upcoming June 25 annual conference. This session will now go over both pending transfers of ownership, and will provide expert advice on how to proceed with the transfers – including potential impact on franchise renewals.
Joint Financial Review
Second, the MACTA Board assumes many local LFAs will probably consider conducting, among other reviews, a financial analysis of the Comcast/Charter/SpinCo transfer. MACTA is concerned with how financially qualified SpinCo is to operate a system throughout Minnesota, and what the overall impact of the Comcast/Charter transaction will be on the new entity.
It will be important for LFAs to gain a complete picture of the potential financial condition of SpinCo. This includes assessing Charter’s management agreement (which could significantly impact future capital available for Spinco system upgrades), capital funds for the SpinCo systems, and how debt held by Comcast could impact SpinCo.
As a result, MACTA is exploring a joint financial review, with two nationally recognized LFA financial consultants to determine if it is feasible for MACTA members to cooperatively conduct a financial analysis of the transfer.
This analysis would provide the necessary financial information to help LFAs make decisions regarding the transfer of their franchise agreements to SpinCo. MACTA would contract with the consultants on behalf of those MACTA members willing to participate. Those MACTA LFA members would then share in the overall costs of the financial analysis.
This will be discussed further at the annual conference, and a separate letter will go out that explains the review in greater detail. Please watch for it in both your e-mail and mail boxes.
May 2014 | Mike Reardon
How might the Comcast divestiture affect your franchise – and your community? It’s a question we’ve all been asking lately, and unfortunately, we don’t yet have a lot of answers.
Last month, I touched on the recent announcement that Comcast intends to merge with Time Warner Cable. As you all are probably keenly aware by now, as the April e-Brief was hitting your e-mailbox, Comcast announced it was “divesting” itself in some of its markets, including the Twin Cities.
The divestiture of Comcast will definitely have a large impact on the Comcast franchises in Minnesota – AND perhaps Minnesota cities with Charter as their franchise holder. Currently, it appears that Comcast will be divested to a yet-to-be-named and newly formed cable operator (currently referred to as SpinCo), which will be managed by Charter.
While we can be fairly certain the divestiture will affect any current local franchising authority (LFA) that has a franchise with Comcast, Charter LFAs may also be impacted. As such, if your community is served by either cable provider, MACTA strongly recommends you receive an opinion from your LFA attorney. They will be able to help you determine whether any of the divestiture actions trigger the transfer of ownership language in your franchise, and if so, what steps you should consider taking.
MACTA will stay in close contact with our parent organization, NATOA, and determine the best approach to weighing in on these matters as they progress. The MACTA board is also looking at ways it may help its members better understand the transfer of ownership process and provide useful information.
Thank you Joe and Sarah!
A big thank you to MACTA’s lobbyists, Sarah Psick and Joe Bagnoli, with McGran and Shea. Our dynamic duo provided weekly updates on legislation at the State Capitol that was pertinent to MACTA members. They continue to monitor any legislation that might affect our interests. For a complete list of their weekly updates, click here (you will need to log in). Sarah and Joe, you both have earned long naps!
April 2014 | Mike Reardon
Legislative Session Set to Adjourn May 19
The Minnesota State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn by May 19. Currently, only a few pieces of legislation pertain to MACTA member interests – and none of them are harmful.
MACTA’s lobbying firm, McGrann and Shea, provide weekly updates on the status of legislation at the State Capitol, which is pertinent to MACTA members. To stay abreast of what is happening, please log in to the “Members Only” section, and review the “Legislative Monitoring” page each Monday morning.
Please note: In the unlikely event legislative action requires your immediate attention, MACTA will issue an action alert requesting you to respond in a particular fashion.
Is There Any Action to Take Regarding the Comcast/Time Warner merger?
The MACTA Board has been asked what, if any, position it might take on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner merger. As Time Warner cable does not have any Minnesota franchises, it appears the merger will probably not have a direct impact in Minnesota.
Having said that, MACTA is keenly aware of the bigger consequences this proposed merger may have on a national scale – including competition, customer service, broadband and Internet, programming, etc. Therefore, we are closely monitoring the merger.
MACTA will stay in touch with our parent organization, NATOA, and determine the best approach to weigh in on matters as it progresses. It should also be noted that Sen. Al Franken is opposed to the merger and has been looking for Minnesota official(s) who might be willing to speak against it. If your city/organization has an interest in speaking publicly on the merger, you may wish to have them contact Sen. Franken’s office.
March 2014 | Mike Reardon
MACTA Day at the Capitol Recap
MACTA’s annual “Day at the Capitol” was a big hit! According to a MACTA member, “I’ve been to a handful and this was the best one I’ve attended.” I’ve provided a full recap in the “Member’s Only” section of the MACTA website under Legislative Monitoring. You’ll need to sign in to either your personal or organization profiles to view. If you are having trouble, check out our recently updated “Website Usability” page here.
MACTA Files Reply Comments in FCC Wireless Facilities Siting Rulemaking
As noted in last month’s e-Brief, MACTA was preparing to file reply comments in the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), “Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies.” The NPRM is trying to determine how to interpret a statute – passed by Congress – on wireless broadband facilities deployment. A copy of MACTA’s reply comments is also available in the Members Only, Legislative Monitoring section, underneath “Federal Legislation Monitoring – FCC.”
February 2014 | Mike Reardon
MACTA Day at the Capitol
If you have not already registered for MACTA’s annual legislative overview and lobbying day at the State Capitol, please do so soon!
This annual event is Wednesday, March 19, and will provide information from legislators on what is to be expected from this year’s Minnesota legislative session – and time to meet and greet with your legislators over at the State Capitol. For full event details and to register, click here.
MACTA Encourages Members to File Reply Comments in FCC Wireless Facilities Siting Rulemaking
As noted in last month’s e-Brief, the FCC is currently conducting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding "Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies.”
The NPRM is trying to determine how to interpret a statute – passed by Congress – on deployment of wireless broadband facilities. NATOA, along with the National League of Cities and other sister organizations, filed Comments by the Feb. 3 deadline.
MACTA is encouraging its members and/or cities they represent to file "Reply Comments” by the March 5 deadline. MACTA intends to forward a template to members that can be used to submit comments in the near future. Please stay tuned for further information and action requests.
January 2014 | Mike Reardon
Happy New Year! At its December meeting, the MACTA Board elected the following officers for 2014: Mike Reardon, President; Janine Hill, Vice President; Laura Cook, Secretary and Toby Keeler, Treasurer.I am pleased to serve as MACTA President for another year and welcome the opportunity to work with a great group of folks serving on the board.
2014 MACTA Board
I am also looking forward to seeing MACTA members at some of the exiting events on the lineup for 2014. Please mark your calendars for the following upcoming events:
Telecommunications & Information Society Policy Forum
Wednesday, Jan. 22 | 4-5:30 p.m.
University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Room 180 - 301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis
This forum will focus on a proposed realignment of State telecommunications and broadband regulations. (More on this under legislative policy update.) The forum is free but prior registration is requested. Click here to register.
Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC)
Third Annual Northern Lights Film Festival Workshop
Thursday, Jan. 30 | 2-4 p.m.
Eagan Community Center, 1501 Central Parkway, Eagan
The Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC) is holding its third annual Northern Lights Film Festival Workshop. This is your chance to learn tips and new ideas for your next video news release, public service announcement, informational video, or news or talk show from the producers of the best MAGC video productions from last year.
This workshop is $10 for MAGC members; $15 for nonmembers. Nonmembers can purchase a membership now and attend this workshop at the member rate.
Registration deadline is Friday, January 24. To register, visit http://tinyurl.com/pvk6sgm.
Border to Border Broadband: A Call to Action Minnesota Broadband Conference
St. Paul RiverCentre, 175 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul
The time is ripe for Minnesota legislators and residents to have a "So What? Now What?” conversation about aspirations for Border to Border Broadband by 2015. Join the conversation at the Minnesota Broadband Conference February 4-5 in St Paul. The event is being coordinated by the Blandin Foundation, and MACTA is one of the conference sponsors. Click here to register or for more information.
MACTA Day at the Capitol
Wednesday, March 19 | 9 a.m.-4p.m.
League of Minnesota Cities Office
145 University Ave. W., St. Paul
This annual event will provide time to be informed of what to expect from this year’s Minnesota legislative session, as well as time to meet and greet with your legislators. Click here for more information.
MACTA Annual Conference
Wednesday, June 25
Park Plaza Hotel Bloomington
4460 West 78th St. Circle, Bloomington
Conference details are still being developed, but please mark your calendar for our annual day-long event. Please note, this year it is being moved up to June. Click here for more information.
NATOA Annual Conference
Sept. 29-Oct. 3
St. Paul, Minn.
NATOA’s annual conference is coming to Saint Paul! This is perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to attend this great conference in our own backyard. This conference will be tied directly to local government involvement with cable franchising, PEG operations, broadband and telecommunications. Full conference information will be available this coming spring. For more information visit www.natoa.org.
December 2013 | Mike Reardon
A big thank you to Mark Moore and a hearty welcome to Mike Johnson!
After serving six years on the MACTA Board of Directors, including serving as President 2009-2010 and Vice President 2012, Mark Moore has elected to not serve another term on MACTA’s Board. Thus, his term will end at the conclusion of the year.
So, if you hear a loud "Yippie!” coming from the City of Apple Valley’s City Hall on December 31, it will be Mark quietly celebrating his departure. On behalf of not only the Board, but the entire membership, I want to thank Mark for his devotion to MACTA. He has served us all very well. Thank you, Mark!
With Mark leaving, Mike Johnson, Executive Director for the Northwest Suburbs Cable Communications Commission) will be joining us. The loud "Gulp!” you hear coming from NWSCCC offices in Brooklyn Park on January 2 will be Mike realizing what he has gotten himself in to.
But seriously, the Board is delighted to have Mike join us, as he brings more than 30 years of experience in cable franchise and PEG television administration to the Board, as well as serving in the past as a city council and school board member. Welcome aboard, Mike!
2013 was relatively quiet at the legislature. How loud will 2014 be?
Looking back over the past year, 2013 was relatively calm and quiet in regard to legislation that affects MACTA members. Nothing happened at the State Capitol that impacts our ability to regulate our cable franchises, nor produce PEG programming. However, 2014 may not be nearly as silent.
We are expecting to see debate over State legislation H.F. 985/S.F. 584, which is intended to modernize Minnesota’s telecommunications law – Chapter 237. While this piece of legislation, referred to as the MN Telecom Alliance or CenturyLink bill, only deals with state telecom law (not cable), it will require close monitoring. Thankfully, the concept of state franchising has been on no one’s radar at this point for 2014.
At the federal level, action at the FCC is heating up on several matters. Perhaps most pertinent to MACTA members is the FCC release of the "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM”) that looks at local government practices regarding wireless facilities siting. NATOA is taking the lead on comments on this matter, but MACTA will be carefully considering how it will participate, and will keep our members apprised as well. There has also been discussion about a complete rewrite of the Communications Act, but nothing concrete and very doubtful for 2014.
MACTA’s Annual Day at the Capitol event slated for March 19
Speaking of legislation, mark your calendars for MACTA’s annual educational and legislative lobby event, on Wednesday, March 19. While details are still being worked out for this event, it can be assumed the telecom bill will be discussed. More information will be coming in January.
Congratulations to Danna MacKenzie – the State’s first Director of Broadband
As noted previously, but worth mentioning again, MACTA is very pleased with Governor Dayton’s appointment of Danna MacKenzie as the State’s executive director to the Office of Broadband Development. MacKenzie brings a wealth of both broadband and local government experience to this new, important position. Read the full press release here.
November 2013 | Mike Reardon
MACTA has survived for more than 30 years – primarily because of the commitment of volunteers. Keeping with this tradition, we have several volunteer opportunities for which we need YOUR help!
1. Conference Committee Volunteers: MACTA is moving its 2014 annual conference to the spring, on June 25. (Please mark your calendar now!) We have a very short time to plan and prepare, and are always looking for committee volunteers.
Please contact Cor Wilson at 651-792-7500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
2. Other Committee Volunteers: Speaking of committees, MACTA has four other committees that offer learning and networking opportunities. They are Communications, Legislative, Membership and PEG. Communications, Membership and PEG provide a bit more "hands on” possibilities, while the Legislative Committee provides a monthly review of legislative activities taking place both at the state and federal level.
Please email anyone on our board, or the committee chairs if you have questions or would like to help. They are listed here.
3. NATOA Conference Volunteers: Finally, as previously mentioned, NATOA will be hosting its 2014 annual conference in Saint Paul, from Sept. 29 through Oct 2. While MACTA will not be officially involved in conference planning, this is another great opportunity to help make our Twin Cities conference truly shine! I have already heard some great ideas from members. (And, thanks to the person who had the idea for an "opening ceremony” event involving James Bond parachuting onto a steamboat on the Mississippi River – but that has already has been done.)
More information on how you can get involved will be coming in the next month or two, but please email email@example.com if you have any ideas.
In closing, I encourage you to keep up MACTA’s tradition of volunteerism, and take advantage of these great opportunities. Trust me, you will enjoy it.
October 2013 | Mike Reardon
More than 20 years ago, the MACTA Board of Directors realized – due to the time commitments required to efficiently and effectively operate the organization – that they needed an "association management” agency to handle day-to-day business matters. This included conference coordination, membership, answering phone calls and the like.
Since then, those daily activities have been successfully administered through a professional association management agency – most currently Ewald Consulting. Laurie Krueger of Ewald Consulting has been involved in MACTA since 2005 and has served as MACTA’s director for the past four. In August, Laurie informed the Board that she had accepted an in-house opportunity to advance her career, and that unfortunately, she would no longer be working directly with our organization.
If you have attended any MACTA events over the years, I am sure you have encountered Laurie’s smiling face and her friendly, professional attitude. While the Board is happy for her, we are sad to see her leave us. However, her replacement, Scott Franzmeier, has been working for Ewald since 2006, and has more than 15 years of association management experience. Please say hello and welcome Scott to MACTA at our Oct. 29 conference. And Laurie, THANKS!
For more information on new MACTA Director Scott Franzmeier, click here.
September 2013 | Mike Reardon
Every time someone asks me what I do as a profession, I find it difficult to fully explain my involvement with cable regulations and video productions. After all, there aren’t a lot of us that do it – so it’s difficult for folks to comprehend our work.
When you think about it, we are a fairly small professional community, even when one includes our community television (PEG) operations staff, attorneys and others that would be considered members of MACTA. So, it is sad when we learn that one of "us” has been injured, suffered a major illness, or worse.
I like to think that MACTA, and our monthly e-Brief newsletter and MACTA website, is a way to share our information about our MACTA "family” members, even when the news is tragic.
Ray Widstrand, master control assistant for Suburban Community Channels (SCC – Ramsey/Washington), was critically injured on Aug. 4 in a brutal attack while on a walk in Saint Paul. Initially, Ray was in the Intensive Care Unit at Regions Hospital, and has recently been moved to a long-term acute care hospital.
Ray, who is only 26, is an integral part of SCC and contributes a wealth of knowledge in the field of television. He is deeply missed by SCC staff and producers.
The Widstrand family has set up a CaringBridge site to provide updates on Ray’s recovery. The site can be found at: www.caringbridge.org/visit/raywidstrand. In addition, a fund has been set up to assist with Ray's medical expenses. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank to "Ray's Fund."
Our MACTA community has Ray and his family in our thoughts and prayers, and we wish for the best in his recovery.
The MACTA Board also wishes Mark Moore, the Board’s Vice President and Cable Coordinator for the cities of Apple Valley, Farmington and Rosemount, a continued successful recovery. Mark recently suffered serious burns and damage to his legs, torso and right hand from an explosion with gun powder while working with one of his collectables. As Mark put it, "As someone that probably should be dead, I’m doing really good.” We all hope to see Mark at MACTA’s conference in October.
August 2013 | Mike Reardon
In addition to MACTA’s upcoming 2013 Annual Conference on Oct. 29, the MACTA Board of Directors has also set the date for the 2014 conference – and it’s moving to the spring!
For some time, the Board has considered moving the annual conference to a May/June timeframe – in part, to avoid all of the other fall conferences on the calendar. With NATOA hosting its 2014 National conference in Saint Paul, Sept. 30-Oct. 4, the Board thought it was the perfect time to make the switch.
Please mark your calendar for June 25, 2014 for the 2014 conference. As a result of the change, there are some minor by-law revisions that will need to happen at this year’s s annual meeting, but other than that, we hope this new timeframe works well for everyone!
July 2013 | Mike Reardon
I am thrilled to announce that our keynote luncheon speaker for MACTA's October 29 Annual Conference is Steve Traylor, Executive Director of NATOA. Steve has been a leader in representing the interests of local government in Washington, D.C., for nearly a decade. At the conference, he will provide insight into the "goings on” at our nation's capital as they pertain to the interests of our MACTA members.
Visit the conference page for registration information.
Also, congratulations to MACTA members who are finalists in this year’s NATOA Government Programming Awards. Thirty six MACTA member video entries received finalist recognition. The announcement of first, second and third place in each award category will happen at NATOA’s Annual awards program on Sept. 19. Good luck to all finalists!
June 2013 | Mike Reardon
Each year, MACTA members produce a plethora of award-winning videos – from local Emmys to national competitions. We would like to recognize ALL of these winners by listing them under Notable Member News on MACTA’s website. If you have received awards for your videos, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will include.
We will start with this year’s winners from the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators Northern Lights Awards and the Alliance for Community Media Hometown Awards.
Thank you and congratulations!
May 2013 | Mike Reardon
NATOA is coming to Minnesota! NATOA’s 2014 annual conference will be held in Saint Paul from September 29 – October 4. This is the FIRST time Minnesota will host NATOA’s annual conference. It is a great opportunity for MACTA members to take advantage of this wonderful learning opportunity in our own backyard, as well as for us to showcase the Twin Cities. Tentatively save the dates! More information on this is on the horizon.
April 2013 | Mike Reardon
As part of MACTA’s increased efforts to provide additional value to its members, you are receiving the first edition of e-Brief. I am very excited about this latest development to provide timely updates and information in a quick, easy-to-digest forum. I hope you like it and strongly encourage you to use this as a reminder to routinely visit MACTA’s website for further info on these items and more. I want to thank the Communications Committee and Ewald (MACTA’s management services team) for providing this additional service.