Government Administration and Elections Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-104

Title:

AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE STATE CIVIC NETWORK.

Vote Date:

3/21/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

2/22/2016

File No.:

575

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Government Administration and Elections Committee, on behalf of the CT Public Access Network

REASONS FOR BILL:

This bill creates a more modern CT-N Network and allows it to expand its coverage of all government activities, archived and searchable files and presentations.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State: Secretary Merrill stated this bill would modernize CT-N and would not further exhaust the state budget.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Paul Giguere, President and CEO of Connecticut Public Affairs Network, Inc., CT-N is unable to provide public greater access to information because budgetary constraints limit the opportunity for growth, lack of space in the LOB, combined with the inability to control and manage equipment and infrastructure limits the ability to update, anticipate and adapt to changes in technology and citizen needs and the current contractual structure constrains speed of innovation, efficiency and cost effectiveness. The bill defines CT-N as a State Civic Network, defines a regulatory structure and process through PURA that mirrors existing state statutes used to assign management of local community access channels to a non-profit entity, establishes the funding stream, authorizes PURA to establish and annually adjust the funding amount and eliminates the need for state support, restoring $3,200,000.

Patrick Sheehan, News Anchor, past president, Society of Professional Journalists, past chairman, Connecticut Public Affairs Network (2001-2016): The bill provides a funding system supported by cable providers, a regulated structure for management selection, with oversight by the three branches of state government.

Colleen Murphy, Executive Director and General Counsel, Freedom of Information Commission: The bill will increase government transparency without the need for further public funding.

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Elin Swanson Katz, Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC): “PEG programming is either available via cable operator services or via streaming from the internet, so the most likely beneficiaries of the services of the proposed State Civic Network are already cable operator customers”.

James Smith, Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, The Connecticut Foundation for Open Government, Inc., Mike Muszynski, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, Jeffrey Shaw, Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, Ray Rossomando, Connecticut Education Association, Tom Swan, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, Pua Ford, League of Women Voters of Connecticut, Inc., Nora Duncan, AARP, Bruno Matarazzo, Jr., Connecticut Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists: The creation of a Connecticut Civic Network will provide comprehensive multimedia coverage of all state government proceedings and easy cross-reference to testimony and other related public documents. It will especially give those unable to travel (the elderly, families without transportation and individuals with disabilities) the ability to follow these activities and engage in community and statewide conversations whether online or in-person at a later date. This bill would remove the state's burden to fund the network. By authorizing PURA to set a rate the state civic networks could then charge cable providers would allow for increased revenue while still ensuring oversight and protection for consumers.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

AT&T Corp: The bill would impose a discriminatory tax on television customers as it only applies to consumers that buy video service from a cable TV, IPTV or satellite provider and not to those using over-the-air antennas or a combination of OTT services. The tax is unfair and will exacerbate a difficult business environment for video providers. The state is pre-empted by federal law from regulating the provision of direct-to-home satellite services.

Paul Cainelli, New England Cable and Telecommunications Association: The bill discriminates against cable customers by taxing only tem and not others who will enjoy the benefit of watching the network. The bill violates provisions of the federal Communications Act. The Act preempts states and franchising authorities from mandating the carriage of any particular program or network. In addition, the proposed bill violates the First Amendment rights of cable operators to choose which programs and networks to distribute to their customers.

Paul Quick, Frontier Communications, David Lamendola, Verizon, Joseph Widoff, Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association of America, William Henderson, Communication Workers of America and Layne McLennan: This bill allows for the imposition of a tax with no limitation in the amount. This is a regressive tax that will be imposed on those that can least afford it. This proposal may expedite the trend of consumers dropping traditional cable service altogether due to the higher level of taxation. Provisions of this bill conflict with federal law. Congress vested the Federal Communications Commission with “exclusive jurisdiction” to regulate the provision of direct-to-home satellite services and thereby deprived states of any authority to determine what channels satellite providers carry.

Reported by: Maureen O'Reilly

Date: April 8, 2016