Cable Advisory Council
of Charter Communications

   
PO Box 87
Newtown, CT 06470
 
 
October 9, 2001 Minutes
 
         
Cable Advisory Council
P. O. Box 87
Newtown, Connecticut

MINUTES

Public Regular Meeting - Tuesday, October 9, 2001
New Milford Public Library, New Milford


There was a regular meeting of the Cable Advisory Council called to order at 7:32 p.m. October 9, 2001 by Chairperson, Carl DeVoe at the New Milford Public Library, New Milford, Connecticut.

ATTENDEES:
William Stratton, John Danscuk, Rick Levy, Alex Forbes, Jill Zaloski, Eileen Sundstrom, Paula Hopper, Carmella Amodeo, Joe Mustich, Ken Cornet, Carl DeVoe, Chairperson. For Charter: Janice Vance, John Dee, Dick Elwell, and Greg Van Antwerp.

PUBLIC INPUT:
No public present.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
P. Hopper asked that the July 10 Minutes be amended to reflect that she was an attendee. (She further suggested that a role call be done at the beginning of the meeting, in addition to the sign-up sheet.) A motion to accept the Minutes of the July 10, 2001 meeting, as amended, was made by R. Levy and seconded by P. Hopper, and carried unanimously.

TREASURER'S REPORT:
In F. Standt’s absence, C. DeVoe provided the Treasurer's Report, originally prepared for the September 11, 2001 meeting.

Opening balance of the checking Account (7/10/01). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 568.80
CHECKS WRITTEN: Newtown Secretarial Svc. (#157 -$233.71)
Money Market Account (#158 – 2,000) (2,233.71)
DEPOSIT (7/13/01) 2,000.00
Closing balance 7/10/01. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 335.09
Opening Balance on the Money Market Account (7/10/01). . . . . . . . . . . . . 8,920.20
Interest (to 7/30/01) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26.53
Deposit (Check #158). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,000.00
Closing Balance (5/9/01). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10,946.73
1 yr. plus CD @ $10,487.91+ int. cred. = $10,598.91

TOTAL FUNDS = $21,880.73

C. DeVoe indicated he had an inquiry from the New Fairfield Public Schools about our grant programs. They are in the process of trying to set up an access channel. Ernie Esposito is the person who has been in contact with Charter regarding this matter, and he may be appointed to the Council.

C. DeVoe asked if anyone has questions to be posed to F. Standt for response at the next meeting. A question was posed regarding any monies received from Charter or SNET, and C. DeVoe indicated that a check had been received from Charter, but he did not have any information on anything received yet from SNET.


COMMUNICATIONS AND CORRESPONDENCE:
C. DeVoe reviewed correspondence received, including the DPUC’s letter regarding Charter’s request for exemption from 30-day notice for change in programming, indicating approval; a letter from Town of Monroe, re-appointing Alex Forbes and John Danscuk to the Council; a letter from the DPUC approving new rates for basic programming, installation, service and equipment rentals for the year beginning August 1, 2001 (Charter will continue to charge existing rate for basic service but does have approval to increase); and letters from Charter’s attorneys regarding planned programming changes; CATV reports. Two letters were also received from customers, one being Greg Brown in Trumbull, regarding loss of service of Charter Pipeline for three days. John Dee indicated that there was a problem with the Pipeline service which was remedied, but there were 5 towns that were significantly impacted – Trumbull, Monroe, Newtown, Roxbury and Southbury. P. Hopper indicated she also had a couple letters from individuals regarding this problem. She further indicated that there have been numerous complaints, over time, regarding poor response rate in answering telephones and getting transferred to several individuals. He indicated customers in those areas were sent certificates for a credit equal to one-half month’s fee. He further indicated that since the upgrade was done to remedy the problems with Pipeline, problems have been reduced considerably. J. Dee also indicated that additional personnel have been added to support Pipeline issues. In addition, approximately 10 more individuals are scheduled to be added to the telephones within the next couple weeks, which will add to the existing staff by 25%. This should drastically improve the response time to answering incoming calls. The second letter received was from Bridget Kelly of Shelton, regarding a debt issue surrounding failure to return a cable box upon termination of service and being sent to collection. Both letters were referred to Janice Vance for response. Janice also commented on an article in the Danbury News-Times regarding the Pipeline issue, indicating that they had incorrectly reported facts and further indicating that, upon resolution of the problem, she issued a press release to them for publication, but they never printed it. P. Hopper questioned Charter as to their procedure for responding to letters from customers. J. Dee indicated there are four people, including himself, responsible for ensuring that letters received are responded to. He further indicated that in the future they are planning to have one person dedicated to the effort of responding to letters and e-mails.


CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS REPORT:
J. Dee indicated they have increased their effort to communicate with customers more effectively. They have hired a regional customer care manager, Tracey Pitcher, who will be resident in the Newtown office but will be overseeing the call center in Worcester, Massachusetts as well. J. Dee indicated they have broken ground for the new building, with a completion date set for mid-January 2002. They are hoping to have personnel in that building by mid-February. He indicated they are attempting to gain approval for an additional 7,000 to 10,000 square feet to allow for future growth. D. Elwell discussed the involvement of the Advisory Council in the refranchising process. He indicated that, despite early dissatisfaction by the Council members on the survey process, the DPUC does weigh heavily on input from the Council and they will have a public hearing on the matter as well. He indicated this would probably be conducted in December. Since the Advisory Council is an Intervener in the process, they will be copied on all correspondence. C. DeVoe indicated that, when the calendar is received from the DPUC, it will be distributed to all members. J. Vance indicated it would also be available on the DPUC web site. J. Vance indicated the work at Heritage Village is almost complete. She indicated a presentation was held for 200 individuals on the new system, and they are really excited about the changes. E. Sundstrom asked about the program listings, indicating that there have been several times she has attempted to tape something on ESPN2 scheduled for a particular time, only to find that the programming has changed. J. Vance indicated the programming data is sold by a third-party company to vendors, and further indicated that the broadcast channels and sports channels are most likely to reschedule airing events. J. Vance indicated that in November they will be launching Video-On-Demand. It is similar to pay-per-view, but you it is not scheduled programming and you can view it at any time. Once you purchase it, it remains available to you until Midnight that day. It will be available on Channel 999. There will be 300 titles a month. There is also another service – Subscription Video on Demand – where you can subscribe to a children’s service and there are 20-30 children’s titles, for $9.99 per month. These services will be launched on a town-by-town basis. Charter is the first company in Connecticut to offer Video-On-Demand service. J. Zaloski indicated she had received complaints about a poor signal for reception of Channel 17 in certain areas of Monroe, and asked who people should contact regarding this problem. J. Dee said they could contact him and he’ll check into it. Greg Van Antwerp distributed the latest newsletter and access report. He discussed new equipment that has been purchased for use in the studios, including camcorders, monitors and a digital editor. They will be training people on the use of the new equipment. He updated the Council on the mobile truck shoots and indicated this has been a good training experience for the interns. G. Van Antwerp also discussed another concept that will be introduced shortly called Studio in a Box. This was another idea put forward by James Diaz, where necessary equipment for remote shoots is contained within one case and can be utilized by individuals to tape events where the truck is not appropriate or is not available. They are awaiting arrival of all of the equipment, and it will be introduced in the near future.


OLD BUSINESS:

Scholarship Committee Report - P. Hopper thanked Charter Communication for their offer to match the grant the Council is sponsoring, and asked that it be put in writing. She also noted that, since there will be a larger amount of money available for grant than expected, the committee is considering offering two separate grants – one for students and one for residents (over age 21) who are not students. J. Vance asked if there was a specific dollar amount, and P. Hopper indicated the Council was contributing $1,000, and Charter was contributing $1,000 as a match. R. Levy questioned how the money would be used, and P. Hopper indicated that would be left up to the recipient, but the committee would set guidelines. She indicated their primary concern was merit, creativity and quality of the production.

Web Site - T. Joyner was not present; deferred to next meeting.

Needs Assessment - C. DeVoe passed out the Executive Summary of the survey results conducted by Hickory Mountain Associates, indicating a full copy of the report was available for anyone wishing to see it. R. Levy made a motion to postpone discussion about the needs assessment until the next meeting, to give everyone an opportunity to review the report. C. DeVoe indicated he had a few comments, indicating they make several recommendations, and come to several conclusions, and feels these are items that need to be addressed in terms of the survey and what people are looking for and how people felt about certain issues. He asked council members to pay particular attention to these items as they review the document, stating that many of the items were not ones that had been discussed previously by the council. C. DeVoe indicated that the report indicates only 20%+ are aware that the Advisory Council even exists. J. Dee indicated that was actually considered to be high. C. DeVoe pointed out that one of the comments in the report indicated that HMA knows of no other cable operators who have gone further than Charter has with distance learning projects in the United States. He further stated that he doesn’t believe enough people are aware of this program. E. Sundstrom and K. Cornet indicated they did not feel the questions asked were of the nature that would result in answers representative of the average consumer. C. DeVoe reminded them that, based on a conversation with a DPUC representative, councils are not involved in the actual creation of the document; the survey is done by an independent company. P. Hopper stated that was in direct conflict with the letter of August 2000, which indicated one of the steps in the franchise renewal process was the assessment of the cable-related community needs, and developed jointly by the Department, the Office of Consumer Council and the local advisory council. She cited this as being pursuant to Item 16-331f of the General Statutes of the State of Connecticut. P. Hopper stated, not only is this a conflict, but the survey was underway one month before the council saw it. C. DeVoe indicated that the document she was referring to was a year old, and they were seeking input at that time and that if anyone had an item of concern, it should have been submitted to the DPUC at that time. K. Cornet indicated that it was his belief this should have been discussed and responded to by the council as a whole, and not as individuals. R. Levy motioned that the council write a letter to the DPUC, indicating the council’s dissatisfaction with the process and the fact they did not feel they had appropriate input in the production of the survey. P. Hopper seconded the motion. W. Stratton questioned when the letter was written and to whom it was sent. P. Hopper indicated it was sent to all parties and interveners, and the letter was dated August 2, 2000. W. Stratton suggested that a statement be made at the hearing, since the hearings are open to the public and the hearing is recorded. He further suggested that, if a letter is being sent to the DPUC, the letter be read at the hearing. W. Stratton also suggested that someone should check the statute referred to in the letter, to see if it was an excerpt and/or how the statute actually reads as far as the Council’s participation is concerned. K. Cornet reiterated that it should be the Council that responds and not individuals, as he may have items of concern that are beyond those of the Council. P. Hopper and K. Cornet stated that this item should have been discussed by the council, and responded to, at an earlier time. R. Levy motioned to amend his earlier motion to table this item until the next meeting, so all members can review the results of the survey, and a decision be made at that time as to whether a letter should be written. A. Forbes seconded the motion to amend, and it carried by a vote of 7 in favor, 4 opposed.


NEW BUSINESS:
R. Levy commended on what a great job Greg Van Antwerp did in Kent on the remote shoot, stating it was a great example of community effort.

A question was raised regarding the status of Channel 9. J. Vance indicated there are two PX stations and, due to the “must carry” status, there may be duplication in programming.

R. Levy asked questions relative to the privacy issue, referencing an article in the August 28 issue of the Waterbury Republican, as to Charter’s awareness of vulnerability. J. Vance indicated subscribers are given information warning against this. There were also questions regarding Charter’s disaster recovery plan. J. Dee indicated there is a disaster plan required by the DPUC and that has recently been updated.

ADJOURNMENT:
J. Danscuk motioned to adjourn the meeting at 9:30 p.m. K. Cornet seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.

Respectfully submitted by: Lorna J. Szalay, Recording Secretary

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, November 13 at Charter Communications Offices in Newtown.

 
             
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