Verizon Franchise Agreement Guide

  1. Talking Points Concerning the Verizon Franchise Agreement
  2. The Gap Between a Good Verizon Franchise and a Bad One
  3. How Can I Support Pittsburgh Community Television? 

1.  Talking Points Concerning the Verizon Franchise Agreement

Action Alert!!

On August 31st at 1 pm, the Pittsburgh City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed cable franchise with Verizon.  The proposed franchise is not a good deal for the City of Pittsburgh and it is not good for PCTV and Public Access.  Here’s why: 

  • It puts the City in control of public access funds.  If City officials don’t like what they see on PCTV, public access resources can be taken away with no public recourse.
  • Capital funding for public access is inadequate for a City of this size.  PCTV’s extensive needs assessment determined that $4.2 million in capital funds would be needed to build and equip a new central facility and satellite facilities around the City.  The proposed agreement provides for $350,000 in funding.  Not only that, the way the franchise is written the funds can be used on things other than public access.
  • Other funding for public access is inadequate.  PCTV’s needs assessment called for 1% of gross receipts to go to public access.  The proposed agreement includes a $.45 per month per subscriber payment.  The payment rises every year but in ensuing years the City’s government channel will take most of this increase.
  • The proposed agreement pales in comparison to what other Cities have received for public access in Verizon Franchises.  Manhattan Neighborhood Network got nearly $6 million in funding plus a payment of $1 per month per subscriber that rises each year.  New York gets $6 million and Pittsburgh gets $350,000?  Sounds like Pittsburgh is second class.
  • It doesn’t require Verizon to have a Call Center within Pittsburgh City limits where people can pick up and return converter boxes and have problems addressed.  Under the existing agreement, subscribers would have to go all the way out to Robinson Township to deal with the problems.  This unfairly impacts low income people and is unacceptable.
  • There is inadequate protection against Verizon using contractors who use undocumented labor for installation.  This has been a huge problem with Verizon in other areas.   Under the existing agreement, Verizon does not take responsibility for what labor gets used.  This takes jobs away from those who play by the rules.  Pittsburgh should not sign a franchise that doesn’t have adequate protection against this practice.


2. The Gap Between a Good Verizon Franchise and a Bad One

With the help of many community members, PCTV conducted a detailed needs assessment that resulted in concrete recommendations based on what you, the people and organizations of Pittsburgh, wanted. Unfortunately, the draft franchise currently on the table ignores these recommendations.  In addition, the proposed agreement pales in comparison to what other cities have negotiated.  To help you understand this, we have included two charts below, one that shows the gap between what was asked for and what was negotiated, and one that shows what other cities have received in support for public access television.

 Gap Between Recommendations and Negotiated Franchise

Needs Assessment (NA) Called For What Proposed Franchise Includes Gap Between NA and Franchise
At least one public access analog channel to begin. Up to 4 additional channels and an additional 12 MHZ for on-demand, HDTV and other applications One public access channel with one “reserve” channel that may be designated by the City as public, education, or government access. Difference is essentially 4 channels. Franchise calls for one additional channel but City has total control over it.
$3 Million in Funding to allow for move to a new 10,0000 square foot studio and the creation of various satellite facilities around the City. $1 Million for updated equipment package. $0 A $4 million gap. The franchise provides absolutely nothing to get the facility that the needs assessment calls for.
Annual funding of $150,000 for equipment replacement for the life of the franchise. Total 1.2 Million. Five payments of $70,000 totaling $350,000 over the first 4 years of the franchise. A $770,000 gap. The franchise provides half of the funding needed for equipment replacement over the first five years, then provides nothing.
1% of franchisee’s gross revenue to support PCTV Begins at $.45 per month per subscriber and rises every year until it gets to $.90 in final year of franchise. However, the City will take a portion of each increase so that PCTV’s share would rise to only $.75 over the life of the franchise. Tough to compare to franchise. Compared to Manhattan Neighborhood Network (see franchise comparison chart) PCTV would get less than half to start and would get $1.55 less per month at the end of the franchise.

What Other Cities Got from Verizon

Manhattan Neighborhood Network Montgomery County Maryland Consortium of NY Villages
MNN – 4 public access channels to start with 5 more added over 12 years of franchise. 2 Channels to start, 2 additional channels upon request 5 Public Access Channels
$5,908,000 paid out in regular intervals over the 12 year life of the franchise for equipment and facilities. 3% of gross revenues for equipment and facilities. Upfront grant of $300,000 + another $150,000 at the end of 12 months. Ongoing grant of $2.12 per subscriber per month to begin with. Then goes up to $2.40 per subscriber per month after 5 years. In addition a “continuing PEG support” of 1% of gross revenues. To be used for equipment and other costs.
Operating funds beginning at $1.00 per month per subscriber with increase every year until it gets to $2.30 in final year of franchise. 11.5 million In support for FY 2010. 1% of gross revenues for continuing support.

3. How Can I Support Pittsburgh Community Television?
What we need you to do: 

  • Call and/or e-mail your City Council representative immediately and let them know how important PCTV is to you. Tell them how PCTV has impacted your life or your organization and that it needs to be well-funded in order to adequately serve the City. Let them know that you think this franchise is a bad deal. Use the talking points above as your guide.

Now is the time to act. Without your support PCTV and public access in Pittsburgh will be hijacked. City Council needs to know that you value this resource and they need to know this now. For further information, please contact us at 412-322-7570.

For a list of Pittsburgh City Council members and their contact information, click here.

2 Responses to “Verizon Franchise Agreement Guide”

  1. Your Support is Needed TODAY! « Pittsburgh Community Television Blog Says:

    […] are INADEQUATE to serve the needs of PCTV for the next 10 years. I set up a page on the blog called “Verizon Franchise Agreement Guide” that includes comparison charts, talking points, and ways you can impact the outcome of the […]

  2. Flo Taylor Says:

    PCTV information needs to be updated.

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