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The Community Access Preservation Act (The CAP Act) has been introduced the last three sessions of Congress.  WCM supports the CAP Act and any legislation that would strengthen local programming that would require all video carriers to  

  • Assess a PEG fee if a local community wants it.  Wisconsin municipalities may not assess a PEG fee due to the state law passed in 2007 that made state government the “local franchising authority.” At the time, PEG fees in Wisconsin averaged 25 cents per subscriber per month but several public access facilities negotiated higher fees, closer to $1, to fund operating costs.  These centers either closed or were substantially diminished by the loss of PEG fees.  Those that relied on PEG fees for capital equipment have never found alternate sources of funding.
  • Include PEG program listings on the Electronic Program Guide. Besides informing viewers about what’s on PEG channels, the EPG enables viewers to use time-shifting technology like DVRs.  Only a handful of access channels in Wisconsin are listed on the Electronic Program Guide.
  • Carry PEG programming on channel numbers closer to the location of broadcast channels.  In Charter communities, access channels are carried in the 980s and 990s where few viewers venture.  AT&T systems don’t really carry the access channels on the line-up at all.  Viewers must navigate through a series of web pages to get to and reverse out of viewing access channels.
  • Assess funding for PEG fees and franchise fees on all wireline services both “cable” and information services (broadband Internet).  Both services carry video on the same line running through city rights-of-way.
  • Support media centers that invest in HD equipment by providing them with the bandwidth needed to cablecast in HD.  WCM would like to see Charter, Time Warner, and AT&T follow the lead of Solarus, a company providing cable services in Wisconsin Rapids.

Media access centers provide an important public service by producing quality videos about local people, government, businesses, issues, and events, and training residents to do the same. From a marketplace standpoint, these programs may never make money for the media businesses that carry them, but they are important to “community conversation.”  Media access centers occupy a niche that serves the public far beyond the cable systems that support them. 

Wisconsin Community Media believes the role of federal communications policy should be to ensure that these brick and mortar local media centers thrive and feed the many alternative distribution systems now available with public interest programming.