July 2014 | Mike Reardon
NATOA Broadband Awards
On Wednesday, Oct. 1, NATOA will present its annual Broadband Awards, and Minnesota Senator Matt Schmit and Minnesota Representative Erik Simonson will be the recipients of this year’s “Broadband Hero of the Year” awards.
The legislators will be recognized for “courageously authoring and championing the ‘Border-to-Border Broadband Fund’ bill that passed in the Minnesota Legislature.” This bill will secure $20 million dollars in funding to help remove barriers to opportunities for much needed broadband development across the state. Both legislators, who were authors of the bill, championed the passage of the State’s first funding to provide broadband services to unserved and underserved areas in Minnesota.
MACTA, working with the League of Minnesota Cities and the State’s Office of Broadband Development, nominated the legislators for their recent efforts. They will receive the awards as part of the NATOA conference’s keynote luncheon, which will be given by FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. Let’s make sure we have a large Minnesota contingency at the luncheon to give them a well-deserved thunderous round of applause!
DEED Statewide Broadband Tour
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is kicking off its Statewide Broadband Tour. State leaders will conduct informational meetings about the new Broadband Grant Program that will expand broadband to unserved or underserved areas. For further information, including locations and dates, click here.
Farewell to Laura Cook
On a personal note, I would like to thank Laura Cook for her past 4 plus years of services on the MACTA Board of Directors. Laura, who not only served during her time on the Board as both the Treasurer and Secretary, was also instrumental in helping with PEG committee activities as its Chair. Unfortunately, Laura had to resign when her husband took a job in Maine. We wish her the best.
Also, on behalf of the MACTA Board of Directors I wish to pass along our condolences to Greg Donovan’s family and to the Ramsey/Washington Suburban Cable Commission (RWSCC). Greg, who had served on the RWSCC since 2009, passed away on July 3. Our deepest sympathies.
June 2014 | Mike Reardon
For the past few months, I have alerted MACTA members of the pending Comcast/Time Warner merger, and the proposed divestiture of Comcast in the Twin Cities market to SpinCo/Charter. As of this writing, local franchise authorities (LFAs) have yet to receive the required “394 Transfer of Ownership” documents. These documents must be submitted by Comcast to each affected LFA. MACTA strongly advises each LFA get legal advice on how to proceed with the 394 transfer process.
MACTA has also recognized the significance of this transfer, and is taking initial steps to assist those members potentially affected.
Revised Session at Annual Conference
First, MACTA has revised one of its sessions at the upcoming June 25 annual conference. This session will now go over both pending transfers of ownership, and will provide expert advice on how to proceed with the transfers – including potential impact on franchise renewals.
Joint Financial Review
Second, the MACTA Board assumes many local LFAs will probably consider conducting, among other reviews, a financial analysis of the Comcast/Charter/SpinCo transfer. MACTA is concerned with how financially qualified SpinCo is to operate a system throughout Minnesota, and what the overall impact of the Comcast/Charter transaction will be on the new entity.
It will be important for LFAs to gain a complete picture of the potential financial condition of SpinCo. This includes assessing Charter’s management agreement (which could significantly impact future capital available for Spinco system upgrades), capital funds for the SpinCo systems, and how debt held by Comcast could impact SpinCo.
As a result, MACTA is exploring a joint financial review, with two nationally recognized LFA financial consultants to determine if it is feasible for MACTA members to cooperatively conduct a financial analysis of the transfer.
This analysis would provide the necessary financial information to help LFAs make decisions regarding the transfer of their franchise agreements to SpinCo. MACTA would contract with the consultants on behalf of those MACTA members willing to participate. Those MACTA LFA members would then share in the overall costs of the financial analysis.
This will be discussed further at the annual conference, and a separate letter will go out that explains the review in greater detail. Please watch for it in both your e-mail and mail boxes.
May 2014 | Mike Reardon
How might the Comcast divestiture affect your franchise – and your community? It’s a question we’ve all been asking lately, and unfortunately, we don’t yet have a lot of answers.
Last month, I touched on the recent announcement that Comcast intends to merge with Time Warner Cable. As you all are probably keenly aware by now, as the April e-Brief was hitting your e-mailbox, Comcast announced it was “divesting” itself in some of its markets, including the Twin Cities.
The divestiture of Comcast will definitely have a large impact on the Comcast franchises in Minnesota – AND perhaps Minnesota cities with Charter as their franchise holder. Currently, it appears that Comcast will be divested to a yet-to-be-named and newly formed cable operator (currently referred to as SpinCo), which will be managed by Charter.
While we can be fairly certain the divestiture will affect any current local franchising authority (LFA) that has a franchise with Comcast, Charter LFAs may also be impacted. As such, if your community is served by either cable provider, MACTA strongly recommends you receive an opinion from your LFA attorney. They will be able to help you determine whether any of the divestiture actions trigger the transfer of ownership language in your franchise, and if so, what steps you should consider taking.
MACTA will stay in close contact with our parent organization, NATOA, and determine the best approach to weighing in on these matters as they progress. The MACTA board is also looking at ways it may help its members better understand the transfer of ownership process and provide useful information.
Thank you Joe and Sarah!
A big thank you to MACTA’s lobbyists, Sarah Psick and Joe Bagnoli, with McGran and Shea. Our dynamic duo provided weekly updates on legislation at the State Capitol that was pertinent to MACTA members. They continue to monitor any legislation that might affect our interests. For a complete list of their weekly updates, click here (you will need to log in). Sarah and Joe, you both have earned long naps!
April 2014 | Mike Reardon
Legislative Session Set to Adjourn May 19
The Minnesota State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn by May 19. Currently, only a few pieces of legislation pertain to MACTA member interests – and none of them are harmful.
MACTA’s lobbying firm, McGrann and Shea, provide weekly updates on the status of legislation at the State Capitol, which is pertinent to MACTA members. To stay abreast of what is happening, please log in to the “Members Only” section, and review the “Legislative Monitoring” page each Monday morning.
Please note: In the unlikely event legislative action requires your immediate attention, MACTA will issue an action alert requesting you to respond in a particular fashion.
Is There Any Action to Take Regarding the Comcast/Time Warner merger?
The MACTA Board has been asked what, if any, position it might take on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner merger. As Time Warner cable does not have any Minnesota franchises, it appears the merger will probably not have a direct impact in Minnesota.
Having said that, MACTA is keenly aware of the bigger consequences this proposed merger may have on a national scale – including competition, customer service, broadband and Internet, programming, etc. Therefore, we are closely monitoring the merger.
MACTA will stay in touch with our parent organization, NATOA, and determine the best approach to weigh in on matters as it progresses. It should also be noted that Sen. Al Franken is opposed to the merger and has been looking for Minnesota official(s) who might be willing to speak against it. If your city/organization has an interest in speaking publicly on the merger, you may wish to have them contact Sen. Franken’s office.
March 2014 | Mike Reardon
MACTA Day at the Capitol Recap
MACTA’s annual “Day at the Capitol” was a big hit! According to a MACTA member, “I’ve been to a handful and this was the best one I’ve attended.” I’ve provided a full recap in the “Member’s Only” section of the MACTA website under Legislative Monitoring. You’ll need to sign in to either your personal or organization profiles to view. If you are having trouble, check out our recently updated “Website Usability” page here.
MACTA Files Reply Comments in FCC Wireless Facilities Siting Rulemaking
As noted in last month’s e-Brief, MACTA was preparing to file reply comments in the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), “Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies.” The NPRM is trying to determine how to interpret a statute – passed by Congress – on wireless broadband facilities deployment. A copy of MACTA’s reply comments is also available in the Members Only, Legislative Monitoring section, underneath “Federal Legislation Monitoring – FCC.”
February 2014 | Mike Reardon
MACTA Day at the Capitol
If you have not already registered for MACTA’s annual legislative overview and lobbying day at the State Capitol, please do so soon!
This annual event is Wednesday, March 19, and will provide information from legislators on what is to be expected from this year’s Minnesota legislative session – and time to meet and greet with your legislators over at the State Capitol. For full event details and to register, click here.
MACTA Encourages Members to File Reply Comments in FCC Wireless Facilities Siting Rulemaking
As noted in last month’s e-Brief, the FCC is currently conducting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding "Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies.”
The NPRM is trying to determine how to interpret a statute – passed by Congress – on deployment of wireless broadband facilities. NATOA, along with the National League of Cities and other sister organizations, filed Comments by the Feb. 3 deadline.
MACTA is encouraging its members and/or cities they represent to file "Reply Comments” by the March 5 deadline. MACTA intends to forward a template to members that can be used to submit comments in the near future. Please stay tuned for further information and action requests.
January 2014 | Mike Reardon
Happy New Year! At its December meeting, the MACTA Board elected the following officers for 2014: Mike Reardon, President; Janine Hill, Vice President; Laura Cook, Secretary and Toby Keeler, Treasurer.I am pleased to serve as MACTA President for another year and welcome the opportunity to work with a great group of folks serving on the board.
2014 MACTA Board
I am also looking forward to seeing MACTA members at some of the exiting events on the lineup for 2014. Please mark your calendars for the following upcoming events:
Telecommunications & Information Society Policy Forum
Wednesday, Jan. 22 | 4-5:30 p.m.
University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Room 180 - 301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis
This forum will focus on a proposed realignment of State telecommunications and broadband regulations. (More on this under legislative policy update.) The forum is free but prior registration is requested. Click here to register.
Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC)
Third Annual Northern Lights Film Festival Workshop
Thursday, Jan. 30 | 2-4 p.m.
Eagan Community Center, 1501 Central Parkway, Eagan
The Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC) is holding its third annual Northern Lights Film Festival Workshop. This is your chance to learn tips and new ideas for your next video news release, public service announcement, informational video, or news or talk show from the producers of the best MAGC video productions from last year.
This workshop is $10 for MAGC members; $15 for nonmembers. Nonmembers can purchase a membership now and attend this workshop at the member rate.
Registration deadline is Friday, January 24. To register, visit http://tinyurl.com/pvk6sgm.
Border to Border Broadband: A Call to Action
Minnesota Broadband Conference
St. Paul RiverCentre, 175 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul
The time is ripe for Minnesota legislators and residents to have a "So What? Now What?” conversation about aspirations for Border to Border Broadband by 2015. Join the conversation at the Minnesota Broadband Conference February 4-5 in St Paul. The event is being coordinated by the Blandin Foundation, and MACTA is one of the conference sponsors. Click here to register or for more information.
MACTA Day at the Capitol
Wednesday, March 19 | 9 a.m.-4p.m.
League of Minnesota Cities Office
145 University Ave. W., St. Paul
This annual event will provide time to be informed of what to expect from this year’s Minnesota legislative session, as well as time to meet and greet with your legislators. Click here for more information.
MACTA Annual Conference
Wednesday, June 25
Park Plaza Hotel Bloomington
4460 West 78th St. Circle, Bloomington
Conference details are still being developed, but please mark your calendar for our annual day-long event. Please note, this year it is being moved up to June. Click here for more information.
NATOA Annual Conference
Sept. 29-Oct. 3
St. Paul, Minn.
NATOA’s annual conference is coming to Saint Paul! This is perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to attend this great conference in our own backyard. This conference will be tied directly to local government involvement with cable franchising, PEG operations, broadband and telecommunications. Full conference information will be available this coming spring. For more information visit www.natoa.org.
December 2013 | Mike Reardon
A big thank you to Mark Moore and a hearty welcome to Mike Johnson!
After serving six years on the MACTA Board of Directors, including serving as President 2009-2010 and Vice President 2012, Mark Moore has elected to not serve another term on MACTA’s Board. Thus, his term will end at the conclusion of the year.
So, if you hear a loud "Yippie!” coming from the City of Apple Valley’s City Hall on December 31, it will be Mark quietly celebrating his departure. On behalf of not only the Board, but the entire membership, I want to thank Mark for his devotion to MACTA. He has served us all very well. Thank you, Mark!
With Mark leaving, Mike Johnson, Executive Director for the Northwest Suburbs Cable Communications Commission) will be joining us. The loud "Gulp!” you hear coming from NWSCCC offices in Brooklyn Park on January 2 will be Mike realizing what he has gotten himself in to.
But seriously, the Board is delighted to have Mike join us, as he brings more than 30 years of experience in cable franchise and PEG television administration to the Board, as well as serving in the past as a city council and school board member. Welcome aboard, Mike!
2013 was relatively quiet at the legislature. How loud will 2014 be?
Looking back over the past year, 2013 was relatively calm and quiet in regard to legislation that affects MACTA members. Nothing happened at the State Capitol that impacts our ability to regulate our cable franchises, nor produce PEG programming. However, 2014 may not be nearly as silent.
We are expecting to see debate over State legislation H.F. 985/S.F. 584, which is intended to modernize Minnesota’s telecommunications law – Chapter 237. While this piece of legislation, referred to as the MN Telecom Alliance or CenturyLink bill, only deals with state telecom law (not cable), it will require close monitoring. Thankfully, the concept of state franchising has been on no one’s radar at this point for 2014.
At the federal level, action at the FCC is heating up on several matters. Perhaps most pertinent to MACTA members is the FCC release of the "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM”) that looks at local government practices regarding wireless facilities siting. NATOA is taking the lead on comments on this matter, but MACTA will be carefully considering how it will participate, and will keep our members apprised as well. There has also been discussion about a complete rewrite of the Communications Act, but nothing concrete and very doubtful for 2014.
MACTA’s Annual Day at the Capitol event slated for March 19
Speaking of legislation, mark your calendars for MACTA’s annual educational and legislative lobby event, on Wednesday, March 19. While details are still being worked out for this event, it can be assumed the telecom bill will be discussed. More information will be coming in January.
Congratulations to Danna MacKenzie – the State’s first Director of Broadband
As noted previously, but worth mentioning again, MACTA is very pleased with Governor Dayton’s appointment of Danna MacKenzie as the State’s executive director to the Office of Broadband Development. MacKenzie brings a wealth of both broadband and local government experience to this new, important position. Read the full press release here.
November 2013 | Mike Reardon
MACTA has survived for more than 30 years – primarily because of the commitment of volunteers. Keeping with this tradition, we have several volunteer opportunities for which we need YOUR help!
1. Conference Committee Volunteers: MACTA is moving its 2014 annual conference to the spring, on June 25. (Please mark your calendar now!) We have a very short time to plan and prepare, and are always looking for committee volunteers.
Please contact Cor Wilson at 651-792-7500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
2. Other Committee Volunteers: Speaking of committees, MACTA has four other committees that offer learning and networking opportunities. They are Communications, Legislative, Membership and PEG. Communications, Membership and PEG provide a bit more "hands on” possibilities, while the Legislative Committee provides a monthly review of legislative activities taking place both at the state and federal level.
Please email anyone on our board, or the committee chairs if you have questions or would like to help. They are listed here.
3. NATOA Conference Volunteers: Finally, as previously mentioned, NATOA will be hosting its 2014 annual conference in Saint Paul, from Sept. 29 through Oct 2. While MACTA will not be officially involved in conference planning, this is another great opportunity to help make our Twin Cities conference truly shine! I have already heard some great ideas from members. (And, thanks to the person who had the idea for an "opening ceremony” event involving James Bond parachuting onto a steamboat on the Mississippi River – but that has already has been done.)
More information on how you can get involved will be coming in the next month or two, but please email email@example.com if you have any ideas.
In closing, I encourage you to keep up MACTA’s tradition of volunteerism, and take advantage of these great opportunities. Trust me, you will enjoy it.
October 2013 | Mike Reardon
More than 20 years ago, the MACTA Board of Directors realized – due to the time commitments required to efficiently and effectively operate the organization – that they needed an "association management” agency to handle day-to-day business matters. This included conference coordination, membership, answering phone calls and the like.
Since then, those daily activities have been successfully administered through a professional association management agency – most currently Ewald Consulting. Laurie Krueger of Ewald Consulting has been involved in MACTA since 2005 and has served as MACTA’s director for the past four. In August, Laurie informed the Board that she had accepted an in-house opportunity to advance her career, and that unfortunately, she would no longer be working directly with our organization.
If you have attended any MACTA events over the years, I am sure you have encountered Laurie’s smiling face and her friendly, professional attitude. While the Board is happy for her, we are sad to see her leave us. However, her replacement, Scott Franzmeier, has been working for Ewald since 2006, and has more than 15 years of association management experience. Please say hello and welcome Scott to MACTA at our Oct. 29 conference. And Laurie, THANKS!
For more information on new MACTA Director Scott Franzmeier, click here.
September 2013 | Mike Reardon
Every time someone asks me what I do as a profession, I find it difficult to fully explain my involvement with cable regulations and video productions. After all, there aren’t a lot of us that do it – so it’s difficult for folks to comprehend our work.
When you think about it, we are a fairly small professional community, even when one includes our community television (PEG) operations staff, attorneys and others that would be considered members of MACTA. So, it is sad when we learn that one of "us” has been injured, suffered a major illness, or worse.
I like to think that MACTA, and our monthly e-Brief newsletter and MACTA website, is a way to share our information about our MACTA "family” members, even when the news is tragic.
Ray Widstrand, master control assistant for Suburban Community Channels (SCC – Ramsey/Washington), was critically injured on Aug. 4 in a brutal attack while on a walk in Saint Paul. Initially, Ray was in the Intensive Care Unit at Regions Hospital, and has recently been moved to a long-term acute care hospital.
Ray, who is only 26, is an integral part of SCC and contributes a wealth of knowledge in the field of television. He is deeply missed by SCC staff and producers.
The Widstrand family has set up a CaringBridge site to provide updates on Ray’s recovery. The site can be found at: www.caringbridge.org/visit/raywidstrand. In addition, a fund has been set up to assist with Ray's medical expenses. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank to "Ray's Fund."
Our MACTA community has Ray and his family in our thoughts and prayers, and we wish for the best in his recovery.
The MACTA Board also wishes Mark Moore, the Board’s Vice President and Cable Coordinator for the cities of Apple Valley, Farmington and Rosemount, a continued successful recovery. Mark recently suffered serious burns and damage to his legs, torso and right hand from an explosion with gun powder while working with one of his collectables. As Mark put it, "As someone that probably should be dead, I’m doing really good.” We all hope to see Mark at MACTA’s conference in October.
August 2013 | Mike Reardon
In addition to MACTA’s upcoming 2013 Annual Conference on Oct. 29, the MACTA Board of Directors has also set the date for the 2014 conference – and it’s moving to the spring!
For some time, the Board has considered moving the annual conference to a May/June timeframe – in part, to avoid all of the other fall conferences on the calendar. With NATOA hosting its 2014 National conference in Saint Paul, Sept. 30-Oct. 4, the Board thought it was the perfect time to make the switch.
Please mark your calendar for June 25, 2014 for the 2014 conference. As a result of the change, there are some minor by-law revisions that will need to happen at this year’s s annual meeting, but other than that, we hope this new timeframe works well for everyone!
July 2013 | Mike Reardon
I am thrilled to announce that our keynote luncheon speaker for MACTA's October 29 Annual Conference is Steve Traylor, Executive Director of NATOA. Steve has been a leader in representing the interests of local government in Washington, D.C., for nearly a decade. At the conference, he will provide insight into the "goings on” at our nation's capital as they pertain to the interests of our MACTA members.
Visit the conference page for registration information.
Also, congratulations to MACTA members who are finalists in this year’s NATOA Government Programming Awards. Thirty six MACTA member video entries received finalist recognition. The announcement of first, second and third place in each award category will happen at NATOA’s Annual awards program on Sept. 19. Good luck to all finalists!
June 2013 | Mike Reardon
Each year, MACTA members produce a plethora of award-winning videos – from local Emmys to national competitions. We would like to recognize ALL of these winners by listing them under Notable Member News on MACTA’s website. If you have received awards for your videos, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will include.
We will start with this year’s winners from the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators Northern Lights Awards and the Alliance for Community Media Hometown Awards.
Thank you and congratulations!
May 2013 | Mike Reardon
NATOA is coming to Minnesota! NATOA’s 2014 annual conference will be held in Saint Paul from September 29 – October 4. This is the FIRST time Minnesota will host NATOA’s annual conference. It is a great opportunity for MACTA members to take advantage of this wonderful learning opportunity in our own backyard, as well as for us to showcase the Twin Cities. Tentatively save the dates! More information on this is on the horizon.
April 2013 | Mike Reardon
As part of MACTA’s increased efforts to provide additional value to its members, you are receiving the first edition of e-Brief. I am very excited about this latest development to provide timely updates and information in a quick, easy-to-digest forum. I hope you like it and strongly encourage you to use this as a reminder to routinely visit MACTA’s website for further info on these items and more. I want to thank the Communications Committee and Ewald (MACTA’s management services team) for providing this additional service.