Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Minutes of March 19, 2009, telecom-board meeting

Telecommunication Board Meeting Meetings
March 19, 2009
Room 219, 113 West Mountain
5:30 P.M.

Aubrey Shepherd called the meeting to order. Board members present were Shepherd, Graves and Hilton. There was not a quorum and Mr. Shepherd indicated this would be an informational meeting only.
CAT Manager Sky Blaylock was present to give the CAT report. Chief of Staff Don Marr came in later in the meeting.
The first item discussed was the UATV Contract. The contract was first sent out in February 2008 but was not signed by the University of Arkansas. Mr. Shepherd indicated that a list of changes that the University of Arkansas thought would improve the contract and clarify the mission of UATV had not been received. Mr. Shepherd indicated that he had visited with the university this month about the contract and suggested that the Telecom Board look into the matter further. Mr. Shepherd indicated that he would be responsible for looking into the matter if the board so chose. Mr. Hilton enquired as to whom the contact person is and Mr. Shepherd said that the university lawyer would be the person handling it. Mr. Shepherd stated the UofA lawyer was contacted and had not responded and that maybe a personal phone call during business hours should be made. Mr. Shepherd stated the U of A lawyer had been contacted by email by a university of official from the station (UATV). Mr. Shepherd stated that did not work and that maybe somewhere in this building (Administration Building) there is a copy of the contract or the returned item. Mr. Shepherd further stated that since there was a new administration that we (Telecom Board) may or may not have access to it (returned item). Mr. Shepherd continues saying the resolution has been open since January 3, 2008. Mr. Hilton asked if there was anyone in the city who was a contact for the Telecom Board. Mr. Shepherd suggested that we could ask Mr. Marr to follow up on this. Mr. Shepherd said that Mr. Marr had been informed and he would contact him again but that he (Mr. Marr) had not been asked to personally to pursue the matter. Mr. Shepherd stated that Mr. Foley had tried to help us but he (Mr. Foley) assumed that the attorney no longer had a copy of it and that it was lost in process of people moving and changing. Mr. Shepherd states that they could re-write them for us if they still want the changes otherwise we can ask them to sign the same contract which our council (Fayetteville City Council) approved. Mr. Hilton states that the Telecom Board ordinance states that the Mayor is supposed to appointment someone from the city staff to support the Telecom Board and in light of the fact that there are two vacancies now in the department that used to do that he wondered if a request should be made to the Mayor who those people are. Mr. Shepherd stated that Mr. Marr said he would act in that capacity during the forum last month. Mr. Shepherd said further that he had addressed Mr. Marr by email regarding another item and had informed Mr. Marr that we would be meeting tonight and needed certain information. Mr. Shepherd suggested that was all that could be done with that particular item at the moment.
Mr. Shepherd asked if anyone had comments on the minutes from last month, Ms. Graves stated that the minutes could not be approved because there was not a quorum. Mr. Hilton stated he went over the minutes and did not notice anything.
Mr. Shepherd then proceeded to the AT&T U-verse. He stated he was hoping to get a full report and that they had some things in writing from AT&T. Sky Blaylock tried to show a video on the status of the FCC’s asking for public comment on the new system but was unable to access the video. Mr. Shepherd reported on a report from Cathy Foraker, Director of External Affairs of AT&T. Cathy said she was working in Little Rock and would not be able to attend. Mr. Jim Bemis asked to speak and was concerned that the AT&T survey only covered two of the PEG channels, Government Channel and CAT. Mr. Hilton informed Mr. Bemis that there were three of them in the survey. Mr. Shepherd continued with the report from Cathy Foraker.
Ms. Foracker’s report stated that, “AT&T Arkansas is pleased to present the following information regarding the launch of AT&T U-verse service in Northwest Arkansas. On December 19, 2008 the U-verse ten day launch notification letter was given to Mayor Dan Coody. On January 6, 2009 U-verse presentation to local elected officials was carried out. On the 7th there was a news conference at the AT&T store at Fiesta Square announcing the launch. All store materials now contain the disclaimer ‘check for availability’ “. Mr. Shepherd interjected that AT&T was now telling everyone that not everyone in out lying areas would have access to this. Ms. Foraker’s report continued, “On the 24th of January AT&T sent an overview and survey for the PEG Center directly to Don Marr Chief of Staff for Fayetteville, Arkansas. On January 30, 2009 the fourth quarter franchise fee payment was made to the City of Fayetteville. On February 11th AT&T received completed PEG service survey from Government, Education and Public Access channels”. Mr. Shepherd interjects that they do have a copy of the forms that Ms. Foraker was just talking about. Ms. Foraker continues, “February 20th the U-verse weather on demand portion was launched. On 26th of March there will be a PEG implementation plan meeting with the Government, Education and Public Access representatives with the AT&T PEG team”. Mr. Shepherd suggested that someone from the Telecommunications Board would want to attend in order to give a report to the board on what was learned. Ms. Foraker’s report continues that on going activities include direct mail of U-verse availability and door to door marketing to addresses that have the availability. AT&T retail stores also provide customer information. Complete pricing, packages and availability may be found at www.att.com”. The report ended with what Mr. Shepherd consider to be promotional material. Mr. Shepherd gave a price range of $49 per month to $109 per month and noted that there was a Latino version. Mr. Shepherd continued with discussion about the PEG survey. He mentions that the survey was completed on February 3 and returned to AT&T. He questioned what was done with the survey and stated that there was no one here to tell us. Ms. Graves states that at the top (of the survey) that there was a request for two channels. Mr. Hilton and Mr. Shepherd state this was a mistake and that it had been revised. Ms. Graves states she sees there was information for three and that she just did not want that to throw anyone off. Mr. Shepherd continues with a description of the survey for City 16 the Fayetteville Government Channel. The survey asked if the cable company inserted programming on the channel down stream from the local source. Mr. Hilton interjected that on the question of the cable company inserting program downstream from the local source, it needed to be mentioned the fact that there are several input points beside the two mentioned in the survey. Mr. Hilton stated he was unsure if they were going to be used but they were probably still in place and there might need to be a question about that. Mr. Hilton states there used to be one at the school (Fayetteville High School) but they were now inserting theirs with Channel 14 and he recommends checking on that (the downstream input points). Mr. Shepherd asked if the library had the capability, Mr. Hilton answered that they didn’t but at one time they had requested one during the franchise negotiations. Mr. Hilton stated there needed to be an assement. Mr. Shepherd mentioned the Quorum Court room at the courthouse and Mr. Hilton affirmed that the quorum court room does have an input point. Mr. Hilton suggested that there used to be 6 downstream inputs. Mr. Shepherd mentioned that there was no closed caption available and that there is no closed caption currently but that it would be nice. He did not know the cost of it or whether AT&T could provide it on their broadcast. Mr. Shepherd indicated he would wait to here from CAT Manager Sky Blaylock as to what she provided in the survey.
Mr. Shepherd then moved to the CAT Manager’s report. Ms. Blaylock stated that she does receive national bulletins, press releases and alerts. Ms. Blaylock passed out packets to the Telecom Board members with information. She indicated there would be discussion of U-verse at CAT’s upcoming Community Media Summit. Ms. Blaylock indicated that the last page of the packet contained information regarding the comment period being extended talking about the AT&T U-verse service. Ms. Blaylock indicated that the issue a lot of the PEG channels are having is their channels being located on channel 99. She indicated that there was a problem with the pricing packages. The cable operators have to offer a lower tier for the under served and the under privileged, AT&T U-verse 100 the lowest tier priced at $45 required another $15 to get the HD converter while the other packages had the converter included. She felt it was onerous for the underserved to have to pay another $15 for the HD converter on the U-verse basic tier. Ms. Blaylock indicated that the problem with PEG channels is that they are all located on channel 99. She indicated you have to locate it and the channel has to load up. She felt it was discriminatory because a lot of stations offer closed caption. She indicated you can’t channel surf and record using DVR. The main issue is the quality of the programming which is through a smaller file, the program want look as clean and clear compared to all of the other channels. Ms.Blaylock stated those were some of the problems the PEG Access channels were having and they are directing comments to the FCC to get a fairer approach because the cable companies were mandated to make the PEG channels equivalent to the other channels. Ms.Blaylock was glad the new technology was available but was concerned because it has problems with PEG which can be seen at the national level because of complaints to the FCC. She also provided a document by Charles Benton, of the Benton Foundation and who is appearing at the Community Media Summit by webinar, about getting to work on purposes of broadband grant program. This is a program designed to make broadband deployment happen in communities, especially in rural communities. Ms. Blaylock then described the Community Media Summit which is happening March 27-28 and being hosted by CAT and the Alliance for Community Media Southwest Region. She informed that there were people coming from a 10 state region. Mr. Shepherd invited her to go into greater detail of the events taking place at the summit. Mr. Shepherd asked about the ‘commercials’ that had been produced by CAT staff to promote this activity, Ms. Blaylock corrected him and said they were not commercials but promotionals and Mr. Shepherd asked if the government channel had shown any of the promotionals. Mr. Shepherd felt it was not only about CAT but also about the PEG channels. Ms. Blaylock indicated she would check into that and indicated that all of the events would be taped and played back so that anyone unable to attend would be able to view the events. Ms. Blaylock indicated that CAT received an $8000 grant to advertise the event and had submitted the promotional spot to the commercial stations as well as Cox.
The City 16 Television report was read by Mr. Shepherd. The report read: A damaged fiber cable was repaired by Cox on March 6th. AT&T is moving forward with placing the PEG channels on U-verse service. Neal Bilbe will be the point man and is supposed to meet Monday March 23 with AT&T along with Mark Warren, Sky Blaylock of Community Access and Daniel Phillips of UATV. City Attorney Kit Williams and Chief of Staff Don Marr were not available at that time. Mr. Shepherd questioned Ms. Blaylock about the meeting on March 26 which was previously discussed during the AT&T agenda item, he wanted to know if the 26th was a separate meeting and the 23rd was a technical meeting. Mr. Bemis asked to speak and referred to the March 26th meeting mentioned in the Cathy Foraker report and then mentioned the March 23rd technical meeting. He questioned that both meetings were crowded into one week and suggested he would like to have the meeting video taped by the government channel and as an aside wished that the government channel play some of the CAT programs mentioned earlier in the CAT Manager’s report. Mr. Bemis wanted clarification of the two meetings and did not know why the meetings were being held outside the board’s purview. Mr. Shepherd asked Ms. Blaylock what the purposes of the meetings were and she indicated she had not heard about the March 26th date. Ms. Graves indicated she thought the meetings were the same and that someone had simply gotten the dates wrong. Ms. Blaylock indicated she was only aware of the 23rd meeting. Ms. Graves asked if that was a one hour meeting and then stated that she suspected that the meeting was actually on the 23rd not the 26th. Mr. Shepherd indicated that they needed to find out exactly when the meeting is and Ms. Blaylock stated she did not know why it was not a public meeting. Ms. Blaylock felt it should be defined if it was a public meeting and that the government channel should be invited to tape the meeting. Mr. Shepherd agreed. Mr. Shepherd indicated that he was going to try and attend the meeting.
Mr. Shepherd went back to the City 16 Television report and brought up the Telecom Board roundtable brainstorming session on March 31st at 6:30pm at the PEG Center studio. Mr. Shepherd questioned as to whether we were ready to keep that date because of a lack of quorum at the meeting. Ms. Graves spoke and said she would rather not keep that date as she has something that conflicts. Mr. Hilton was asked by Mr. Shepherd for his thoughts and Mr. Hilton said it was fine with him if it was moved into the second week of April because of projects that he has which would not end until then. Public comment was asked for; Mr. Bemis spoke and said he agreed with Graves and Hilton and that the second week in April would be great because of all the meetings that were coming up. Mr. Shepherd said he would cancel the March 31st date and would consult with the board about rescheduling before the next Telecom Board meeting.
Compliments were asked for and Mr. Bemis stated he would like to compliment Ric DeLahoussaye for his service. Mr. Shepherd asked for other comments on Ric’s retirement and Ms. Graves stated she was unaware that Ric had retired. Mr. Shepherd also said he thought a great deal of Ric.
There were no complaints voiced.
Mr. Hilton gave a report on the February forum. Mr. Hilton stated he had paraphrased it and he directed everyone to the summary at the end. Mr. Hilton said that the rules of the entity as he heard them at the forum are that the Telecommunications Boards role is to advise the city council by recommending policies and actions. The city council’s role is to make final decisions on those recommendations in the form of ordinances and resolutions. The Mayor’s job is to see that those decisions are followed. The city staff’s role is to decide what procedures are to be used to accomplish the policies contained in the ordinances and resolutions. Mr. Hilton said it seemed fairly straightforward. Mr. Shepherd agreed. Mr. Hilton said he thought it was obvious that one of the key issues that came up, what is a policy and what is a procedure. During the forum it was mentioned policy and procedures needed to be thoroughly discussed and each defined and the government channel policy devised according to the findings. Public comment was asked for and Mr. Bemis stated he would like to see a full board discussion so that the full board would understand what we did at the forum and the public understand very clearly what is encompassed by the roles that are outlined. Mr. Bemis stated he was still confused about how procedures are developed by the city to mirror the policies. Mr. Bemis addressed Ms. Graves and said he felt she was concerned that we had not really pinpointed some of the things that had caused some of the issues. He asked that the specific point be looked at in the brainstorming session. Mr. Bemis stated that before Ms. Thomas left she was preparing some procedures and it was not clear to Mr. Bemis how the board would have a role in approving those procedures or if they do. Mr. Bemis stated that which every way it comes out is fine but just to pinpoint those responsibilities. She (Ms.Thomas) was asked by Ms. Bell last October based on a complaint, to prepare a list of the staff responsibilities. Mr. Bemis felt like those issues related directly to how procedures and staffing tie to policy. Mr. Hilton said the ideal of transparency was discussed also. He said that it was stated that there was much controversy from government channel policy revisions that were made in February 2006 and October 2008 and there were several opinions that transparency was not practiced in those revisions which was caused by two actions, policy being transformed into procedure and the Telecom Board Sub-Committee on policy and procedures was bypassed. Also the cities Chief of Staff stated that the administration is committed to using a very open and transparent process and will be very open about what they want to change, why they want to change it and why they believed it should be changed. Interest was expressed in forming a task force to review the present Telecommunications Board Ordinance for possible changes because of technology changes, the laws and the comprehensiveness of the present ordinance. It was suggested that several sub-committees could be formed to deal separately with such things as the government channel, educational and public access channel. Interest was expressed in doing a communications audit for the City of Fayetteville to determine where we are. The then upcoming brainstorming session was discussed to talk about some of the specific ways to deal with some of the telecommunications issues and help prepare for revisiting the government channel policy.
Mr. Hilton mentioned the vacancies on the board and no one applying for it. Mr. Shepherd stated he knew it was advertised. Mr. Marr stated there were no applicants and no appointments were made at the city council meeting.
Mr. Hilton questioned Mr. Marr about the former structure in the city staff as to who would now be the support person that the mayor is going to appoint for the Telecom Board. Mr. Shepherd stated that he had said it was Mr. Marr. Mr. Marr stated that there was reorganization at the city of the organizational chart. Mr. Marr stated that as it related to staff and telecommunications, because Ric retired it was another change at the PEG Center related to government channel staff. A job was posted originally for Cable Administration position but after meeting with staff it was determined that Ric’s position was actually Office Coordinator position. In the budget reformation last year that position technically was given to the Yvonne Richardson Center so the PEG Center government channel staff was reduced by one but the position that remained was the Cable Administrator because it was a higher graded position. After meeting with Ric, Frou, Steve and Neal it was determined that there was not a job description that Mayor Jordan really wanted. There were positions in both the Office Coordinator and the Cable Administrator positions. Mr. Marr stated that the staff at the PEG Center will ultimately report to the Director of Communications, which has not been hired yet and is Susan Thomas’s old role. Mr. Marr stated he was fulfilling that position currently. It was determined that more programming was wanted by the government channel to highlight city services to introduce city staff where it was not just the reporting of meetings. The job description was rewritten to Government Channel Division Manager. That will be the direct staff member assigned to the Telecommunications Board, with the support of Director of Communications of Marketing. Mr. Marr stated that the reason the government channel management position was reorganized was because the public access and educational channel was outsourced and the management duties related to the government channel management only. The position that will coordinate with the other positions will be the Director of Communications and Marketing. Ms. Graves asked Mr. Marr if the direct liaison with the Telecom Board would be the new government channel manager. Mr. Marr stated the Telecom Board would actually have two, the Government Channel Manager and the actual policy advisor would be the Director of Communications and Marketing. Mr. Shepherd asked where the new position had been advertised. Mr. Marr answered it had been advertised on the city web site and in the state newspaper. Mr. Shepherd asked about an item concerning advertising that had been on the City Council’s agenda and wanted to know if they had changed anything about that. Mr. Marr answered that the item was tabled for further study but indicated that does not affect job postings.
Mr. Marr invited the board to the upcoming Fayetteville Forward Summit starting March 31st. He also gave a brief description of the events.
Mr. Shepherd asked Mr. Marr about UATV contract that could not be found. Mr. Marr said they would research Ms. Thomas’s work files and if it was not there that they would have some dialog with Mr. Foley about it.
Mr. Marr was asked about the meeting with AT&T as to what the correct date is and Mr. Marr stated it was March 23rd on his calendar and that he was going to try to attend. There was further discussion about the two dates and Mr. Marr indicated he was not familiar with the March 26th meeting and said he would confirm the meeting and send notification.
Mr. Hilton brought up the open position on the Telecom Board and suggested that it should be advertised on the government channel bulletin board. Mr. Shepherd agreed and Mr. Marr indicated he would be happy to see that it was advertised.
Ms. Blaylock wanted to know if the AT&T meeting could be videotaped and if someone from the Telecom Board or someone from the city could be on the policy panel at the summit. Mr. Marr indicated that either he or the city attorney would be on the panel. Mr. Marr indicated he needed to talk with them (AT&T) and if we could we would film (tape) it.
Mr. Hilton moved for adjournment and Ms. Graves seconded.
Minutes Prepared by Steve Odom
March 31, 2009

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