Print Page   |   Sign In   |   Join MACTA
From the President

September 2018 | Janine Hill

During the state chapters’ meeting at NATOA’s Annual Conference in Philadelphia last month, I was delighted to sit next to NATOA Board Member Chris Jaramillo who is from Seattle and represents King County, WA. She had great things to say about MACTA, expressing to me that “Minnesota is the gold standard among chapters.”

 

Our organization is indeed impressive. MACTA’s notable chapter activities describe some of our accomplishments the first half of this year. Our communications to members is a model for our national organization. NATOA leaders often mention they look to emulate our e-Brief newsletter and surveys show members find value in it.

 

MACTA members are experts in their fields. Several presented on technology, station management and production along with their peers from around the country at the national conference. Minnesota also had quite a showing at this year’s GPA Awards. Thirty-one MACTA member organizations received GPA awards (4 first place) and several other member cities have received nominations for Upper Midwest Emmy Awards and recognition from the City County Communications and Marketing Association’s Savvy Awards contest. Check out all of the award winners.

 

You are doing remarkable work in your communities and contributing to MACTA’s high level presence on the national stage. I am proud to be part of this first-rate organization.

 

LMC Telecommunications Task Force
Thank you to the League of Minnesota Cities’ (LMC) for holding its annual Telecommunications Task Force meeting on Sept 10. Several MACTA members were in attendance and gave valuable input during the discussions. Rights-of-way and maintaining local authority continue as top priority issues for our cities and organizations.

 

The LMC’s 2018 City Policy Statements include Telecommunications and Information Technology, Broadband, Competitive Cable Franchising Authority, Right-of-Way Management and Wireless Tower and Antenna Siting.

 

Task force members are planning to tweak some of the language over the next several weeks. The recommendations will be presented to the Local Economies Policy Committee at an upcoming meeting.

 

 

Eagan’s Tom Garrison to Retire

After a nearly 40-year career in communications, Eagan Communications Director Tom Garrison will retire on October 4. Tom’s impressive contributions in telecommunications and broadband have had impacts at both the state and local levels.

 

Tom helped with legislation that led to the creation of the Minnesota High Speed Broadband Task Force in 2008. Appointed as a representative of Minnesota cities, Tom served a two-year term on the inaugural task force whose recommendations led to the creation of the Minnesota Office of Broadband. Tom has also been a longtime member of the League of Minnesota Cities’ Telecommunications Task Force.

 

Tom created the Eagan Technology Working Group in 2004. Since then he has been the City’s liaison, mapping where fiber is installed, advocating for higher broadband speeds and helping establish a nearly 40-mile fiber backbone known as AccessEagan that has helped strengthen regional connectivity.

 

Tom was also instrumental in Eagan’s partnership with Thomson Reuters that resulted in the formation of Eagan Television – a partnership that was recognized by the Humphrey Institute in 2009-2010 with a Local Government Innovation Award. For more, visit Notable Member News.

 

Congratulations, Tom! Enjoy your retirement!

 

Until next month!

Janine

 

August 2018 | Janine Hill

“The greatest goal of leadership is inspiring leadership in others.”— Brett Culp, filmmaker “Legends of the Knight.”

 

MACTA is an organization of leaders. I could fill many columns expressing the talents and leadership qualities of our members, but here are a few of these inspiring leaders who have recent news.

 

Minnesota continues to be well represented at the national level

MACTA Board Member Karen George will be appointed to serve on the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) board at the organization’s annual conference in Philadelphia at the end of August. She will fill an open seat on the board, serving the remaining year of a two-year term.

 

Among other objectives, Karen said she is enthusiastic about continuing the strong traditions of NATOA's leading voice in legislation and regulation that affect telecommunications policy. As a NATOA board member, Karen will maintain Minnesota's long involvement with our national organization and a strong commitment to PEG services at the local level. Karen will maintain Minnesota's long involvement with our national organization and a strong commitment to PEG services at the local level.

 

Mike Johnson, executive director of the Northwest Suburbs Cable Communications Commission and Northwest Community Television/CCX Media, is completing his two-year term this month on the NATOA board of directors, during which he served as chairperson of the NATOA communications committee.

 

Mike will now focus his energy serving as a board member of the Alliance for Community Media (ACM). Appointed to the ACM board in April, Mike is currently serving on the finance and fund development committees and said he is excited to help carry out ACM's mission and strategic plan.

 

 

LMC’s Laura Zeigler accepts new position

Congratulations to Laura Ziegler, senior intergovernmental relations liaison with the League of Minnesota Cities, who recently accepted a new position with Associated General Contractors as director of highway/heavy and government affairs. She starts her new job September 10.

 

Laura has been with the League since 2013. She worked closely with MACTA on policy guidance in the areas of cable, telecom and broadband, and was a tireless supporter of Minnesota cities’ ability to manage their rights-of-way.

  

Many, many thanks to Laura for her support and all the best to her as she takes on a new position. Laura said she’ll miss working with city officials and MACTA, but she hopes to see many of you at the state Capitol in her new role.

 

Keep inspiring others

There are many who enhance this organization and inspire me and others to want to achieve something extraordinary. You achieve greatness on a daily basis, producing, maintaining, troubleshooting or managing your productions and facilities that result in award-winning local stories and news so important to your community members.

 

Carry on, leaders!

Janine

 

July 2018 | Janine Hill

Our local programming and the ways we use our resources can positively impact our communities. I recently had the opportunity to observe a fantastic youth engagement program happening this summer that is a partnership between Bloomington Community Access Television (BCAT) and City of Edina’s SWTV, a member city of the Southwest Suburban Cable Commission.

The program was made possible through the hard work and talent of BCAT’s Ben Vinar and SWTV’s Dietrich Nissen.

The two organizations held the first of three weeklong video boot camps for teens ages 12 – 17 last month at Bloomington’s public access facility. Fifteen teens attended the first camp and were very enthusiastic and excited to learn how to use video cameras, and understand audio, lighting and editing techniques to create short videos as a group.

It’s encouraging to see youth eager to move beyond cell phone videos and engage in video production this way. One participant said the reason he signed up for the class was to be able to get a chance to work with professional production equipment. Another said "I loved having fun using high-tech and quality resources as well as making a video with new people that I hadn't known before." It was also amazing to see around 40 – 50 family and friends of the participants attend the last day of the camp to watch a screening of the student productions.

The Teen Video Boot Camp proved so popular that two more sessions were added to accommodate the participant response. Check out these talented future videographers in action. View the student productions, and a feature video about the Teen Video Boot Camp.

Hope you are enjoying your summer!
Janine

 

                     

 

 

                     

 


 

 

 

June 2018 | Janine Hill

Summer is upon us! With lots of fun, local activities and events to cover for your PEG channel programming, this time of year offers a great opportunity to capture the best of your communities while the temps are warm and everything is in bloom.

 

What did you think of the 35th Annual MACTA Conference & Trade Show? Knowing previous years’ popularity with the vendors and equipment, we decided to make it official and hold a trade show alongside the conference this year. A total of 20 sponsors provided the best in services and the latest in new technology for attendees. We also received some great feedback on the sessions and, of course, the highlight was meeting new members and getting to better know some of our current ones.

 

Check out the Conference Recap.

 

Updates from NATOA
Nancy Werner, NATOA General Counsel, provided members with an excellent overview of what’s happening on the national stage at the recent MACTA conference. Two recent updates include:

Small Cells Deployment
Earlier this month, NATOA filed a Petition for Reconsideration on the FCC’s exemptions for small cell facilities from federal environmental protection and historic preservation review.

Nancy noted that “the Petition points out that the Order fails to address the (i) impacts of Section 6409 on the availability of state/local environmental and historic preservation reviews; (ii) environmental and historic preservation impacts of denser deployments in a relatively small area; or (iii) inconsistencies with the Collocation NPA (FCC’s Nationwide Programmatic Agreement).”

MACTA agrees with NATOA’s concerns that the order sets a definition for small wireless facilities and that it is important to get on record that we disagree with these exemptions.

BDAC and Wireless/Wireline Infrastructure
Last month, I reported on the working group within the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) and its approval of model state and municipal codes for broadband and small cell implementation. MACTA believes these model codes may potentially have a negative impact on local control of rights-of-way.

 

NATOA, along with the National League of Cities, the National Association of Regional Councils, the National Association of Counties, and the National Association of Towns and Townships recently filed a Letter in the BDAC and Wireless/Wireline Infrastructure Proceedings. The letter discussed concerns with the BDAC process, model codes, rates and fees report from the BDAC working group.

For a high-level overview of the model codes, please take a look at the Overview of Draft BDAC Model Codes Nancy Werner prepared. Please note you will need to log-in to MACTA’s “Members Only” section to view the document.

Reg Dunlap Announces Retirement
Reg Dunlap, Civic TV Coordinator for the City of St. Louis Park, will retire on July 31, 2018. For the last 30 years, Reg has contributed a great deal not only to St. Louis Park, but to the metro community television industry as a whole.

Reg organized the Minnesota Government Access Producers (MGAP) in 1994 and chaired it for 15 years, creating opportunities for producers to share information and tour city halls. He served two terms on the MACTA board of directors, ending his most recent term as treasurer in November 2017. He also led the Membership Committee during that time.

Reg led the way for St. Louis Park to be among the first cities to stream local cable channels, upload television programs online and transition to HD programming. In addition to recording hundreds of public meetings, candidate forums and special events and producing three long-running news programs, Reg served as franchise officer for the city’s cable television providers and has been liaison to the city’s Telecommunications Advisory Commissions since 1996.

Thanks to Reg for his many, many contributions to MACTA and our industry. We wish him a happy and healthy retirement. Congratulations, Reg!

Learn more about Reg’s retirement and farewell receptions in Notable Member News.

Until next time,
Janine

 

 

May 2018 | Janine Hill

We’ve always known our members were all-stars, and two of them recently received top honors from the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC) at its Northern Lights Awards ceremony last week.

 

St. Louis Park’s Communications and Marketing Manager Jacque Larson was honored with MAGC’s Communicator of the Year Award and North Suburban Communications Commission/CTV North Suburbs Executive Director Cor Wilson received MAGC’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I am honored to know and to have worked with these two remarkable women.

 

An outstanding leader and gifted communicator, Jacque Larson truly deserves MAGC’s Communicator of the Year Award. I have known Jacque for many years and admire her professionalism and many talents. She is greatly respected by her peers, her staff and the city leaders and elected officials she serves with. Currently serving as an officer on the MACTA board and on both the Communications and PEG Committees, Jacque is a true asset to this organization.

 

With an impressive career of nearly 40 years in local government, Cor is a model recipient of MAGC’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Cor has represented local government interests for many years, serving on the board of directors and as president of both MACTA and NATOA. Her contributions and expertise in the planning of MACTA’s annual conferences over the years has been invaluable. Cor will be retiring this year on June 8. She has been a mentor for many of us. We are happy for her, but will greatly miss her talents and expertise.

 

Congratulations, Jacque and Cor! Learn more about their accomplishments in Notable Member News.

 

Federal Updates

Working groups within the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) recently approved model state and municipal codes for broadband and small cell implementation. MACTA believes these model codes may potentially have a negative impact on local control of rights-of-way. The National League of Cities and NATOA are working on a municipal action guide for small-cell deployment for local municipalities this summer. The guide will be published as an alternative to the model code released by the FCC Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC). In June, BDAC plans a “harmonization process” of the code with a state model code that cities oppose.

 
Annual Conference

Don’t forget to join us for the Annual Conference & Trade Show on June 13. We have an outstanding line-up this year!

 

See you soon,

Janine

 

 

April 2018 | Janine Hill

Approximately 20 people attended MACTA’s April 11 Day at the Capitol event. One of the highlights was the tours of the impressive video control rooms at the Senate and House. What a great opportunity to view live productions of the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee that day and the taping of “Capitol Report” over on the Senate side. We learned a great deal from Alpha Video and House/Senate production staff as they showed off their state-of-the-art facilities.

 


A big thanks to the League of Minnesota Cities’ Laura Ziegler, our lobbyist Joe Bagnoli and NDC4’s and former NATOA president Jodie Miller for always being such great resources and for giving us a comprehensive overview of what’s happening locally during this Legislative session.

Small Cell/Broadband Update
We know that last year’s small cell wireless siting was the big issue, and wireless companies have begun deployment in cities.

“We have not heard of any big issues, but we are collecting data and getting feedback to make sure,” Ziegler said. “As always, this is a concern for the long term, as we support the rights of cities to control their rights-of-way.”

Minnesota has long been a leader in broadband and has made it a priority to ensure that the unserved and underserved are not left behind. We had a brief discussion about a bill proposed recently (though not expected to pass) that amends the successful border-to-border broadband grant program.

Jodie Miller posed the question “Why do we care?” To answer, she pointed out how the Minnesota Task Force has set broadband speed goals, set up a grant program and even appointed a director of broadband.

“All these things other states would love to have,” she said. “Building out Greater Minnesota is helpful to the metro area and supports important efforts like digital inclusion.”

We’ll continue to keep an eye on anything that may pop up before the session ends May 21. Be sure to check out the most recent “MACTA Capitol Updates” in our “Members Only” section.

Thanks to everyone who attended and to Mark Martinez, Dietrich Nissen and Jodie Miller for coordinating the event. It was good to see many familiar faces and some new ones!

All the best,
Janine

 

March 2018 | Janine Hill

MACTA’s membership is strong and continues to thrive because of members like you. Thank you to all who continue to find this organization beneficial and support its efforts by renewing your membership for 2018. It’s nice to see so many onboard.

 

I had the opportunity to reflect on the benefits of this organization when a potential member recently asked me: Why MACTA?

 

My organization and I have gained a lot of value from MACTA over the years. Most importantly, from a Legislative and funding perspective. Bloomington’s communications operations are funded through cable franchise fees, so understanding the policies and actions that could impact that funding is extremely valuable.

 

Cable Franchising
I’ve participated in many phone conferences, workshops and other meetings provided by MACTA to learn important information about cable franchising; heard from other members who were in the negotiation process; and received important legal tips from presenters. This was invaluable during my city’s franchise negotiations.

 

Legislative Issues
MACTA keeps me abreast of legislative issues that may impact all of us. I’ve had to report on these issues to my city leadership, and have looked to MACTA for advice. I’m looking forward to getting the latest news and meeting our legislators at MACTA’s Day at the Capitol event on April 11.

 

It has been very helpful to get weekly Legislative updates. Members can view the MACTA’s March 18 Capital Update Report online. Please note, you will need to log-in to view the Legislative Monitoring page under the “Members Only” section.

 

Video Production & Storytelling
As MACTA members, my staff and I have also benefitted greatly from a production, technical and creative perspective. For example, the educational opportunity provided by the PEG committee's recent storytelling workshop - it was a huge success, and very well received. Video of the workshop is available online in MACTA’s “Members Only” section. (Please note you will need to log in.) My staff and I also regularly work with video producers from other member cities to learn about the latest technology and production equipment available, and solutions to other issues that arise. 

 

 

National Issues

MACTA also keeps me up-to-date with national issues (broadband, wireless, net neutrality, etc.) through our national organization NATOA. Recently, NATOA sent a letter to the FCC to oppose a proposed order on their March 22 agenda. The order would preempt local control over small cells, siting review under the Environmental and Historic preservation acts. Please familiarize yourself with the letter if you haven’t done do already.

 

Networking
Most of all, it has been invaluable to network and learn from other members about how they are handling their administrative operations or tackling big projects like transitioning to high definition. This was especially true for me when I was new in my position. I can’t say enough about the great working relationships I have had and the friendships I have made with other members over the years.

 

We’re seeing and hearing from some new members. Organizations are bringing in lots of new talent as cities and commissions are filling positions left open by retirements. I am quite sure that MACTA either has already or will soon make an impact on you as it has with me.

 

So, are you a longtime member or just joining? Now, it’s your opportunity to reflect. How do you value MACTA? What do you want your organization to be?

 

All the best,

Janine

 

February 2018 | Janine Hill

February was a spectacular month for sports with much excitement locally surrounding Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis and events in nearby cities that showcased Minnesota’s greatness and, yes, cold temps.  On the world stage it was the Olympics - always inspiring with remarkable athletic achievements. These events also showcased the behind-the-scenes talent of the videographers, editors, producers, camera operators, hosts, and sports commentators who illustrate – albeit on a larger scale – the kind of work we do to provide meaningful local news, and events and sports coverage for our communities.

While the Big Game and the Winter Games have come and gone, the excitement continues with the kickoff of the 2018 Minnesota legislative session on February 20.

Local Control
There will be much activity underway at the Minnesota State Capitol now that the session has begun. MACTA’s Day at the Capitol event on Wednesday, April 11 will provide a great opportunity for you to meet with your legislators. In fact, this year, MACTA will be placing an even larger emphasis on the importance of making connections with those who represent your communities. 

Want to find out who represents you? Visit www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/districtfinder

Maintaining local control has always been important to MACTA and our member cities. We are currently working on talking points for members, which you will be able to use in discussions with your city leaders and local, state and federal elected officials. The handout will contain local control issues such as broadband, cable franchising, and rights of way. 

Closed Captioning
Section 508 standards of the Rehabilitation Act were updated by the Access Board last year. As of January 2018, Federal agencies have been required to comply with these standards. Click here to learn more about the update

While these standards may not apply directly to PEG channels, it’s possible they may have implications for local governments because of our requirement to comply with ADA standards. 

As part of our annual conference this year on June 13, MACTA is planning a general session on closed captioning. You can expect to hear more information regarding the Section 508 standards, as well as new technology available for closed captioning. 

Until next month,
Janine

 

January 2018 | Janine Hill

Hello, MACTA members! I hope you’re having a great start to your new year. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do!

MACTA Board Retreat Overview 
Outgoing, incoming and current MACTA board members had a very productive end-of-year retreat in December. The highlight was a facilitated conversation to determine how we will work together to make 2018 a successful year for MACTA. 

We assessed accomplishments, shortfalls, trends and organizational vision. Further brainstorming resulted in a list of key action items for 2018: recruitment, retention, operations, communications, programming, legislative, outreach and outstate. The next step is to identify our priorities and determine how we will carry them out. We’ll be working on these issues throughout the year. If you have input regarding these action items, please let me know.

 

     



December Board Meeting, Election of Officers 

In addition to the retreat, we also held our regular board meeting during which we elected 2018 officers. The results include: Janine Hill, President; Marty Doll, Vice President; Jacque Larson, Treasurer and Karen George, Secretary.  Directors at Large include Mark Martinez, Lori Pulkrabek and Eric Strouse.

Members were also assigned to committees, and those members are already planning a PEG workshop in February, the Day at the Capitol event this spring, another Brown Bag event in May and organizing the line-up for this year’s annual conference in June.

Thanks to the City of St. Louis Park for hosting, and for showing off your newly remodeled Council Chambers while we were there. Very impressive!  

New Management Firm
On March 1, MACTA will officially transition to a new management firm AdminBrandingBox (ABB). ABB handles smaller organizations like us, and I’m confident they will expertly serve our needs. They come highly recommended by their clients and we’re looking forward to working with Christine Strak and her team. 

I expect the transition and new operations to be seamless. MACTA’s website will not change, so you can continue to register and pay for conferences, membership dues, etc., in the same manner.  We will provide you with a new address to contact us by mail after March 1.


Thank you to The Harrington Company for providing excellent service over the past two years. Their staff is top notch and we’ve enjoyed working with them. I wish them all the best!

2018 Legislative Session
I’d first like to take a moment to remember Sarah Janecek, who recently passed away. Sarah teamed with Wy Spano to provide very effective lobbying services for MACTA for several years. She published a detailed directory of legislators and edited of the Politics in Minnesota newsletter during that time. 

“Sarah was a wealth of knowledge, understanding the inner workings of the legislature,” according to former MACTA board of director and past president Jodie Miller. “She seemed to wear the hats of advocate and journalist, helping to cover the news of the state capitol while working on policy issues for her clients.”  

Our heartfelt condolences to Sarah’s family and friends.

 

We’re gearing up for the 2018 Legislative Session, which begins February 20. MACTA’s lobbyist Joe Bagnoli recently reported that there’s not much on the agenda related to telecom this year, but he said “there’s always something that comes up.” (As you know, last year’s small cell wireless siting was the big issue and we’re watching it settle in and seeing how it plays out.) 

You can keep informed with what’s happening by visiting www.mactamn.org where we’ll post legislative updates on a regular basis in the Members-Only section.

If you would like to hear firsthand what’s going on at the local and national level, consider joining MACTA’s Legislative Committee. We meet once a month for about an hour to hear the latest news. Email co-chair Mark Martinez at mark@swctc.org for more information and to get on this list.

Would you like some good instruction on how to communicate with legislators? The LMC offers tips for communicating with legislators in its latest Minnesota Cities magazine.. This article is not only a good resource, but also good prep for when you meet legislators in person at MACTA’s Day at the Capitol event. More on that later. 

Looking forward to another great year!

All the best,

Janine

 

December 2017 | Janine Hill

Another year is coming to a close. It was great to connect with members at events like Day at the Capitol, MACTA’s Annual Conference and our new Quarterly Brown Bag Luncheons. 

The last event of the year was held this month at the CTV North Suburbs studio in Roseville. Thanks to Cor Wilson and her team for hosting 2017’s final Quarterly Brown Bag! CTV’s Pat Cook and the crew had some noteworthy technical tools and tips on portable mobile production systems. They really showed how you can use this equipment to take “the show on the road” without a production truck. They did a fantastic job! You can read a recap of the event in this month’s e-Brief. 

What’s On Deck for the New Year
We’re looking forward to another great year in 2018! This month, the board of directors will meet to develop a work plan, review member survey results, make committee assignments and elect officers. Planning for a PEG half-day workshop in February is already underway and the annual conference is set for June 13.

If you haven’t done so already, please take note of legislative priorities you may want to discuss with state legislators for the upcoming session. The League of Minnesota Cities 2018 City Policies were posted last month. 

The LMC Telecommunications Task Force, which had at least six MACTA representatives on it, offered recommendations for amendments to the 2018 policies.  The policies reflect those changes.  

The following areas of focus are highlighted in the “Improving Local Economies,” section LE-15 through LE-19:

  • Telecommunications and Information Technology
  • Broadband, Competitive Cable Franchising Authority
  • Right-of-Way Management
  • Wireless Infrastructure and Equipment Siting 

McGrann Shea will again be providing lobbying and consulting services for MACTA on legislative and administrative activities at the state level. We will look forward to their legislative updates on a regular basis so that members can stay informed about issues related to cable, broadband and rights-of-way. These updates will be posted to the MACTA website under the “Members Only” section.

During the first quarter of 2018, MACTA will be changing association management firms, as The Harrington Company looks to focus its efforts on larger organizations. Many thanks for the support over the last two years and a special thank you to staff liaison Corinna Hastings for her knowledge, dependability and attention to detail. The board is currently reviewing proposals from management firms and will make a decision in the next few weeks. More information to come!

Membership Renewal
Membership renewal for 2018 is currently underway. Please take the time to renew your membership. From lobbying at the state legislature on your organization’s behalf to providing valuable information and educational opportunities that benefit you and your organization, MACTA works hard to protect members’ interests. We value your membership and look forward to working together and providing more excellent programming in the coming year. 

Enjoy the Holiday Season
On behalf of the MACTA board of directors, I wish all of you the very best this holiday season, and good health and happiness in the new year!


 

November 2017 | Janine Hill

Welcome Newly Elected Board Members


It is with pleasure that I announce MACTA leadership for 2018. Jacque Larson, Mark Martinez and Eric Strouse were recently elected as board of directors for two-year terms, beginning Jan. 1, 2018.  Marty Doll, Karen George, Lori Pulkrabek and I will also be returning board members this coming year. 

Eric StrouseEric Strouse, Studio Manager for CTN Studios/City of Coon Rapids and current board member, has made valuable contributions to MACTA since he was first elected in 2016. As chair of the Conference Committee this year, Eric led a hugely successful annual conference that had exceptional presentations, excellent attendance and positive feedback from attendees. Eric has also been a member of the PEG Committee helping to coordinate sessions and provide input to the group. He is a committed professional and I am thrilled that he has signed on for another term on the board. 


Jacqueline LarsonI am so looking forward to working with Jacque Larson, Communications and Marketing Manager for St. Louis Park. I have known Jacque for many years, serving with her for several terms on the Minnesota Association of Government Communicator’s board of directors. Jacque is great to work with and I can’t say enough about her outstanding leadership, talent, organization skills and reliability. Jacque has many years of experience in community relations and communications for both the cities of Minnetonka and St. Louis Park.  She joined the MACTA Communications Committee this year and has served on the PEG Committee, as well.

Mark MartinezA hearty welcome to Mark Martinez! I met Mark soon after he began his new role as Administrator for the South Washington County Telecommunications Commission. He oversees an award-winning production team and brings experience in PEG activities and franchise negotiations from his current position and from his previous position as Community Cable Access Coordinator for the City of New Ulm. Mark has expressed an eagerness in shaping the future of this organization and I look forward to the enthusiasm and ideas that he will bring to this leadership role.

Thank You Outgoing Board Members


Mike ReardonThank you, thank you, Mike Reardon who will be officially stepping down from the MACTA board in December. Mike retired from the City of Saint Paul in July. Mike’s leadership with MACTA is extensive, serving on the board of directors during two different timeframes: from 1989 to 1993 and from 2007 to the present. During that time he was president for nine years and was co-chair of the Legislative Committee.  Mike’s contributions to MACTA cannot be understated. His leadership and experience will be greatly missed. We continue to wish Mike all the best in his retirement!


Reg Dunlap

More big thanks to Reg Dunlap, City of St. Louis Park Civic TV Coordinator, who will also be leaving the board in December. Reg will be finishing his second term; he previously served one term from 1998-2000.  As treasurer this time around, Reg has worked hard to ensure our finances are in shipshape and he will be leaving MACTA a financially healthy association. Reg also led the Membership Committee during his term.  I greatly value Reg’s input and expertise in decision-making and other matters. It has been a pleasure serving with him.

 The board has an all-day retreat planned in December, during which we will develop a work plan for the coming year and assign officers. I am grateful for the wonderful group of talented leaders I serve with and look forward to working with new and current board members on another notable year for MACTA!


This time of year is a reminder of my appreciation for our members. You have been an instrumental part of MACTA’s successes over the past year. My wish is that your holidays are filled with peace and enjoyment.

With much gratitude,
Janine Hill, MACTA President

 

October 2017 | Janine Hill

Greetings! What a great gathering we had for our October Brown Bag Luncheon and Annual Membership Business Meeting at North Metro TV in Blaine last week. Thanks to Heidi Arnson and her team for hosting and for providing a fantastic tour of the facility. Their new studio sets are awesome! 

Brown Bag Recap
The luncheon, designed for members to exchange information and compare notes, was one of the best thus far. I enjoyed, and valued, hearing from everyone about what’s going on in their cities. I believe we all learned a thing or two about franchising and other cable matters. It was also nice to hear NATOA updates from Immediate Past President Jodie Miller, ideas about how we can promote community television and what we do, and about HD upgrades that are moving forward for many of us. 

Annual Business Meeting Recap
After lunch, we held MACTA’s Annual Membership Business Meeting. Highlights included MACTA’s 2017 activities and accomplishments, committee reports and nominations for the board of directors’ 2018 open seats. Thanks to all who attended! 

Anyone up for a pizza party? The next Brown Bag event will be held at CTV North Suburbs in Roseville on Dec. 7. Watch for more information in next month’s e-Brief. 

LMC Draft 2018 City Policies

The League of Minnesota Cities’ Draft 2018 City Policies are available online. LMC is seeking comments from members and affiliate groups until Friday, October 27. Comments can be sent to policycomments@lmc.org. Please include a reference to the specific policy number, your organization/city, name, and title, in your message. 

You can also read the 2017 Policy Committee Recommendations document to find out the changes and new policies the committees are recommending.

LMC policy committees adopted these draft policies in September. At its October meeting, the LMC Board of Directors will review the draft policies and on November 9, will consider member input and give the policies final consideration.

News from our National Organization
NATOA recently announced a leadership transition. Steve Traylor, who has served as NATOA’s Executive Director since 2010, will retire in December. Many believe that under his leadership the organization’s legislative voice and national presence have expanded dramatically.

"We will miss his direction, insight and perseverance," noted NATOA Immediate Past President Jodie Miller. "Over the last seven years, Steve has built the necessary foundation and relationships to propel NATOA's policy agenda forward and we thank him for his service."

Tonya Rideout, Deputy Director and Chief Financial Officer, was named as Transitional Director and will assume the duties of this position in January 2018. She has been Deputy Director of NATOA since 2008.
Traylor said he is confident in the organization’s direction and that “NATOA will continue to support the interests of local governments nationwide."

 

September 2017 | Janine Hill

Congratulations to Minnesota’s own Danna MacKenzie and Mike Reardon, who were both honored with prestigious awards at this year’s NATOA annual conference in Seattle earlier this month. I am so pleased to see these two outstanding individuals nationally recognized for their support and commitment to MACTA, our members and their communities, and those around the state who benefit from their efforts.

Community Broadband Hero of the Year
Danna MacKenzie, Executive Director for the State of Minnesota’s Office of Broadband Development, received the Community Broadband Hero of the Year award. The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) recognized Danna for being “the face of success for advancing rural broadband development in Minnesota.” 

In presenting Danna with the award, NATOA noted that since 2013, Danna and her office have been bridging the accessibility gap with $66 million in broadband grants awarded to 73 projects for Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. NATOA noted that the Blandin Foundation’s letter of support for Danna said she has a “clear and unshakeable commitment to public benefit in everything she does. Keeping community well-being at the center is at the heart of Danna’s approach to her role. Minnesota government is better for it and Minnesotans are better served thanks to her.”

Each year NATOA honors outstanding individuals and projects that seek to improve government and public options in broadband technology. Danna, who was appointed to her position as Executive Director of the Office of Broadband Development in 2013, thanked NATOA and its members for continuing to highlight the importance of this issue.  

“It is an honor to be recognized by NATOA for work supporting communities in securing better broadband,” Danna said. “Solving this challenge takes a team of community champions, and I am blessed to be working with so many who are committed to connecting every Minnesotan to the 21st century economy.”

2017 NATOA Member of the Year
Mike Reardon, recently retired MACTA president and current MACTA board member, was honored as NATOA’s 2017 Member of the Year. Mike was recognized for his involvement with NATOA for 20 years and his 30 years of cable franchise, telecom, broadband and video programming. 

“Mike exemplifies volunteerism to the fullest, and we have been blessed to have his expertise and involvement in so many facets of NATOA,” President Jodie Miller said. “One of the best things about Mike is he doesn’t take something on unless he can do it well.  He always says what he will do, and he does what he says.”

Mike is a past NATOA president and life member. NATOA noted that Mike has been a community television volunteer/producer for more than 25 years, and has contributed more than 2,000 hours of volunteer time in producing over 250 sports and community television programs. 

"I was very humbled and honored to receive the award, especially considering the company I am joining of NATOA colleagues who received it previously," Mike said.

Congratulations, Mike and Danna! Your work is greatly appreciated!

 

August 2017 | Janine Hill

Remembering Mark Moore and Leslie Saporito

We’ve had sad news recently with the passing of Mark Moore and Leslie Saporito. On behalf of MACTA, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of these individuals. 

Mark Moore, a longtime member and contributor to this organization, served as MACTA’s president from 2010 - 2011 and was on the board from 2006 - 2013.  He retired this past January after nearly 28 years in local government, PEG and franchising. Mark served as the cable coordinator for Apple Valley, Farmington and Rosemount and its tri-city cable commission from December 1999 until his retirement.  

Before that, he worked for Saint Paul as a video producer for nearly a decade. Mark was not only a wonderful colleague, but a good friend to many. He will be greatly missed. 

 

A memorial gathering for Mark will be held Friday, Sept. 1 from 10 a.m. – noon at Kessler & Maguire Funeral Home (640 W. 7th St., St. Paul). 

Leslie Saporito was a partner in the Bradley Berkland Hagen & Herbst Law Firm and also worked in the law office of Baller Herbst Stokes & Lide. Leslie negotiated franchise agreements and represented cities throughout the country on telecommunication matters. She was also involved with NATOA and had attended several annual conferences over the last few years. 

Leslie is the daughter of Adrian Herbst, who has been a long-time telecommunications attorney representing many cities throughout the country and was a long-time member of NATOA and MACTA. Our warmest thoughts are with her family and friends.  

 

A gathering/service for Leslie will be held on Wednesday, August 30 at O'Halloran & Murphy Funeral Home.

LMC Telecommunications Task Force
Thank you to the League of Minnesota Cities’ (LMC) for holding its annual Telecommunications Task Force meeting on Aug. 9. With several MACTA members in attendance, we were well represented in the discussions.  Many members brought forth concerns related to rights-of-way and maintaining local authority as top priority issues for their cities and organizations. 

After a 2017 Legislative Review by LMC staff, the focus was primarily on the LMC’s 2017 City Policy Statements that include Telecommunications and Information Technology, Broadband, Competitive Cable Franchising Authority, Right-of-Way Management and Wireless Tower and Antenna Siting. 

I encourage you to take a look at the draft policy issues and the responses. Task force members are planning to tweak some of the language over the next several weeks. The recommendations will be presented to the Local Economies Policy Committee meeting at the end of September.

Legislative Update
During the State’s 2017 legislative session, Minnesota’s Telecommunications Rights-of-Way User Law was amended to reflect changes pertaining to telecommunications companies’ use of rights-of-way, especially with regard to the deployment of small cells technologies. 

To help cities better understand how these changes affect them, on Aug. 1 the LMC published their 2017 Telecommunications Right-of-Way User Amendments Permitting Process for Small Wireless Facilities

In addition, LMC will be holding a Small Cell Wireless webinar on Tuesday, Sept. 12 from 1-2 p.m.  Click here to learn more.

For those who attend the event at the League’s offices, an informal Q&A discussion will occur immediately following the webinar.  We recommend that you alert the appropriate staff within your cities of this useful document and the webinar. 

FCC Wireline NOI
On July 11, MACTA submitted Reply Comments in the FCC’s WT Docket No. 17-84, “Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment.” MACTA continues to work closely with NATOA and LMC regarding the FCC’s proceedings on both of their wireline and wireless proceedings.  

 

July 2017 | Janine Hill

 

Welcome from new MACTA President Janine Hill

Greetings MACTA members. I am honored to serve as president of this exceptional organization. For those who don’t know, I joined the MACTA board in 2011 and have been vice president since 2014. I’ve also served as chair of MACTA’s Communications Committee and was excited to be involved in the website redesign and launch of the e-Brief newsletter in recent years. 

MACTA has been a great asset to my organization, the City of Bloomington, and to me over the years. I am proud to be part of such a quality group of members. Many of you I know, and I look forward to meeting those of you I have not yet had the opportunity to meet. 

My beginnings in cable access go way back. My first job was assistant technical director at a public access facility in Iowa City, IA, producing content for the channel, working with producers and managing the facility’s equipment. 

I graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in journalism and communications, and later received a master’s in business communication from the University of St. Thomas. 

For the past 10 years, my role as Bloomington’s communications administrator has been to oversee the City’s media relations, and the print, website, social media and cable programming operations that include both Bloomington’s government and public access channels. I also manage our cable franchises and mediate consumer complaints. 

Past president Mike Reardon is a hard act to follow with his many decades of impressive contributions to issues related to telecommunications and cable franchising. The good news is that Mike is not completely leaving his duties. 

Mike will serve with the City of Saint Paul in a part-time capacity, and I am pleased to announce that he will also remain on the MACTA board and as chair of the Legislative Committee through the end of the year. We are grateful to have his expertise during this leadership transition and happy that he will serve a bit longer as he fills out his term on the board.

Speaking of the MACTA board of directors, I am thrilled to continue to serve on a team of dedicated, professional and talented individuals. MACTA has had a busy and successful year thus far. We’ve been on top of recent federal and state industry issues that affect our organizations such as small cells and the FCC’s Wireline NOI proceeding. The annual conference in June, an outstanding educational opportunity for members, also saw a record attendance and received rave reviews from attendees. I’m looking forward to what the future brings.


MACTA will continue to provide many benefits to its members and their organizations. We sincerely thank you for your membership and contributions. Be on the lookout for a member survey in the next few months. We want to hear from you about how we’re doing and what ideas you may have to make MACTA even better.  In the meantime, please feel free to drop me a note, submit a comment, ask a question or to simply say “hello.”

All the best,

Janine Hill
MACTA President

 

June 2017 | Mike Reardon

 

Parting Thoughts from MACTA President Mike Reardon

“So, what do you for your job?”  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve cringed when asked this question.  It’s not because I don’t like the question. This social exchange is a great way to get to know someone better.  Rather, it’s the difficulty I’ve had for the last 30 years trying to succinctly explain to someone, just exactly “what I do” as a cable coordinator/officer/administrator, etc.  

Initially, I tried to explain that my job involves “regulating the cable franchise for the city” and that I “oversee the PEG operations.”  Usually, people would reply, “So, what’s a cable franchise?” or “What are pig operations?” [That’s not a typo… I’ve been asked what my work has to do with pigs…]  

Then of course I would explain that in order for NorthComMediaATT to provide cable services, it needed to obtain a cable franchise.  Their eyes would glaze over and they’d say something like, “I just forgot, I have a dentist appointment.”   So, I gave up the long form explanation. 

The short versions weren’t really any better. No matter how I tried to explain it, people would eventually have the urge to see their dentist.  So, here I am 30 years later, and I still haven’t figured out a way -- a simple way -- to explain what I do.  

Thankfully, I don’t need to explain this type of work to those of you reading this.  Thankfully even further, 34 years ago, the Minnesota Association of Cable Television Administrators was founded. Now, there is a professional organization to provide us “cable government” people with the opportunity to network, exchange information, and work together on issues common to Minnesota communities who franchise cable companies’ use of the rights-of-way.

Whether we serve as the cable administrator for a city, an executive director for a cable commission representing numerous local franchising authorities, as a commissioner or elected official, as legal counsel assisting in “cable” matters, or even in the video/PEG production arena, MACTA has been here for more than three decades to assist us when and as needed. 

Over the past 34 years, MACTA has matured (the gray hairs are proof of this) and grown as an organization.  Approximately 20 years ago, MACTA -- recognizing that cable television was “converging” (remember that buzz word?) with “telecommunications” activities -- expanded its scope and became the Minnesota Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators.  Since then, broadband, small cells, wireless, wireline, internet, etc., have been added to the plate.  

MACTA has always been ready to take on the next technology using our local rights-of-way. Good or bad, it appears sometime within the next 3-5 years, if not sooner, there will be a showdown regarding how the rights-of-way are regulated.  Or, unregulated?   And I know that MACTA will be continue to be there to fight for its member’s rights, and will work with NATOA, the League of Minnesota Cities, and other similar-minded organizations in these coming battles.  

As for me, I want to express my most heartfelt gratitude to all of you for allowing me to be part of this wonderful organization for nearly 30 years.  It truly has been my pleasure, and you have taught me so much. Thank you for the incredible, wonderful comments, sentiments and signs of appreciation expressed to me at this year’s annual conference.  For those who know me, I am seldom at a loss for words, but on that day, I was.  

Finally, I wish you all well on this continued journey ahead.  I strongly encourage you to remain/get active in MACTA.  You will not regret it!  After all, who else truly understands what you do?  As for me, the next time I am asked what I do for a job, I think my answer of, “I’m retired,” will need no further explanation.   Until, next time, “Be good, but if you can’t be good … be great!”

 

May 2017 | Mike Reardon

 

The State Legislative session is over…or is it?

Since February, I have been writing about pending legislation related to small cell wireless technology that could reduce Minnesota cities’ ability to manage their rights-of-way.   Well, legislation has passed, but not before the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) fought a mighty battle to retain many of the policies it set out to protect.  

While I cannot say it was a complete victory (it is not positive any time we lose even a portion of our local authority) Minnesota fared better than the seven other states who have enacted new small cell legislation.  

For a complete analysis, I encourage you to read the LMC’s recap of the legislation.
  
On behalf of all MACTA members, I would like to thank Joe Bagnoli (MACTA’s lobbyist) and our attorney friends Mike Bradley (Bradley, Berkland, Hagen & Herbst);  Bob Vose (Kennedy & Graven); and Lisa Veith (City of Saint Paul).  These individuals provided valuable legal expertise to the LMC on behalf of MACTA.

However, without a doubt, the biggest kudos and thank you goes to Laura Ziegler at the LMC. Laura never wavered from her convictions to protect the League and its affiliates’ interests during countless hours of intense negotiations.   

So, while Minnesota’s legislature has adjourned for this year, understanding the ramifications of what has happened is far from over.  You can hear directly from Laura in our “State & Federal Legislative Updates” session at June 21 MACTA Annual Conference, including a look inside at what transpired behind closed doors.  

Speaking of the conference, Mike and Bob will join Brian Grogan (Moss & Barnett) and Dick Nielsen (CBG Communications) to provide an insightful overview of “Cable Franchising:  Apocalypse Soon?”  Lately, it sure feels that way.
  
And… while I’m on the topic of our conference… the “Legislative Update” session this year will feature both Senators Franken’s and Klobuchar’s aides, who will provide their senator’s perspective on federal activities.  They will join our own NATOA President Jodie Miller as she provides her thoughts on recent FCC actions that seemed to be aimed right at our organizations.  Also invited to appear on this session is our good friend Rep. Sheldon Johnson.  If you have any interest in policy and legislation, you will not want to miss these two sessions.  

By the way – did I forget to mention we will have our annual conference on June 21?  I hope to see you there!

 

 

April 2017 | Mike Reardon

 

Focus at the State Legislature Still on Small Cell, and Some Unnerving Developments at the FCC

For the past two months, I have devoted much of this column’s attention to State legislation concerning “small cells.” Well, guess what? For the third month in a row, my primary focus is the deployment of “Small Cell and DAS Systems” legislation at both the State and Federal level...  As an added treat, I also toss in unnerving developments at the FCC.  Oh boy!  

 

State of Minnesota Legislation
Legislation, at any given time, can be a moving target.  Such is the case with our state’s “Small Cell & DAS Systems” legislation ([HF739] and [SF561]).  Thanks in large part to a coordinated effort – lead by the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) – the State legislature heard loud and clear that the wireless industry’s proposed legislation was NOT acceptable to local governments.   

The bill would have restricted local authority to regulate companies that wanted to install small cell wireless technology in the public right-of-way.  Industry representatives and the LMC worked for weeks to come to a compromise on the language. However, after it became apparent that the industry was not willing to accept LMC’s proposal, the legislation was pulled from the House’s jobs bill.  

The House author requested that the language be held back until stakeholders could come to an agreement.   The two big hurdles continue to be:

  • Municipal zoning authority of the public rights-of-way
  • Ability for local governments to negotiate rates for use of the rights-of-way 

As listed in LMC’s Cities Bulletin Newsletter (4/3/2017) the LMC’s alternative bill language offered the following: 

  • Streamline amendments to existing Minnesota law (rather than drafting new legislation) that has worked for 20 years. Many other states don’t have this law on the books, and it clearly states that the law applies to small cell wireless technology. 
  • A 60-day time frame for cities to provide answers on small cell applications, along with an application cap, to ensure efficient access and speed to market. 
  • No need for a new administrative process for cities, which is also likely to be construed as giving a competitive advantage to a particular industry. 
  • Emphasizes that one size DOES NOT fit all, therefore, cities should be able to continue to make decisions about small cell deployment on a case-by-case basis. 
  • Continues the deployment of small cell technology in the public right-of-way that is already occurring by cooperating with cities. 
  • Protects taxpayers from picking up unanticipated expenses from companies using public assets, and doesn’t undercut what residents could earn from private placement.

MACTA continues to strongly support LMC’s efforts in this important tangle over the use of the public rights-of-way.  

Capitol Updates

MACTA’s lobbyist, Joe Bagnoli from McGrann Shea, has been working hard tracking all of the potentially impactful legislation at the State Capitol this legislative session.    

Check out the April “Capitol Update,” here. (You will need to log in to the “Members Only” section to view).

 

Activity at the FCC
On April 7, both MACTA and NATOA (with numerous other participants) submitted “Reply Comments” in the Mobilitie Petition “Streamlining Deployment of Small Cell Infrastructure by Improving Wireless Facilities” proceeding.  

If you don’t read anything else, I strongly encourage you to read NATOA’s opening statement quoting Mobilitie CEO Gary Jabara’s negative perception of local governments.   

Even while they were still in the process of receiving “Reply Comments,” the FCC issued drafts for two further rulemaking proceedings – one for wireline and the other for wireless broadband deployment. Both are potentially injurious to local government.    

It is anticipated the FCC will consider whether to move forward with these two rulemakings at its April 20 commission meeting.  Suffice it to say, when one of proceeding’s title states, “Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment” it should be presumed that local government is being perceived as one of the barriers, if not the barrier.   

As has been the case with the “Mobilitie” petition, MACTA will be closely following how NATOA responds to these two proceedings and will file comments/reply comments as necessary.  

If this isn’t enough, the FCC also recently announced its formation of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC).  According to the FCC’s press release, the BDAC will focus on “how to accelerate broadband deployment by reducing and/or removing regulatory burdens to infrastructure investment.”  

Again, remember the term “barriers” can be seen as a euphemism for local government.  On top of this, currently there are only a handful of government representatives, while the vast majority of seats are occupied by the various industries.   The BDAC is scheduled to conduct its first meeting on April 21.  

If there is a silver lining in any of this, the anti-local government tone now at the FCC has resulted in numerous local government associations, including NATOA and the National League of Cities, to assemble a local government working group that will put together a Municipal Siting Guide – meant to provide local officials and staff with information about the deployment of small cell facilities in their communities.  The group includes representatives from NLC, NATOA, NACo, WIA, CTIA and others.  The group’s first meeting will be April 19.  

 

March 2017 | Mike Reardon

 

Tom Grundhoefer, An Ally to MACTA, Passes Away 
Tom Grundhoefer, long-time legal counsel for the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 19. 

Tom, 60, started his career with LMC in 1986 as a staff attorney. He was promoted to general counsel in 1996, and eventually added management of the LMC’s Research Department and the role of LMC Associate Executive Director to his many duties and responsibilities.   

Of keen interest on current matters, Tom was working hard on the small cell legislation in Minnesota. While many MACTA members probably didn’t have direct interaction with Tom, I was fortunate enough to work with him on an annual LMC committee.  I admired his calm demeanor and his extensive knowledge of seemingly all local government matters.  

As LMC Executive Director David Unmacht noted, “There is a hole in the heart of the League that will take a long, long time to heal.”  

I would add, not just the League but local governments and their affiliations throughout Minnesota.  

MACTA and Small Cell Legislation & Activities
The Minnesota Small Cell & DAS legislation [HF739] and [SF561] is still a BIG concern for Minnesota cities.  As the LMC has taken the lead on this – and is well recognized at the Capitol as the local government expert and spokesperson – it makes sense to rely on their most recent update from the March 20 LMC Cities Bulletin.   

As of March 20, LMC opposes the current legislation – and so does MACTA.  The LMC has done a great job alerting its member cities about what is going on, so chances are your city/cities are very much aware of this legislation and its significance.  As such, MACTA will continue to support LMC’s efforts and, if necessary, send out action alerts.  

FREE eNATOA Webinar Thursday, March 30  - State Wireless Siting Legislation: A Critical Look 

Speaking of Small Cell Legislation in Minnesota, NATOA is offering a FREE eNATOA webinar - State Wireless Siting Legislation: A Critical Look, on Thursday March 30 at 1 p.m.    


The eNATOA event, which is also open to non-NATOA members, will examine state legislation restricting local government rights-of-way authority and revenues. Similar legislation has been introduced in nearly two dozen states . . . and counting!  

The webinar also features two of our state’s local experts, Laura Ziegler from LMC and NATOA President Jodie Miller from NDC4.   Find out what these bills are all about and how they can impact your community.

Hurry, space is limited and registration ends on Tuesday, March 28 at 11 a.m.

FCC Filing on Mobilite Petition

If Small Cells state legislation isn’t enough, the FCC is currently considering a petition from Mobilite, a small cell infrastructure provider, to allow streamlining deployment of small cell infrastructure.  

On March 8, NATOA submitted comments in partnership with the National League of Cities, the National Association of Towns and Townships, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Regional Councils, and the Government Finance Officers Association.   

MACTA will be submitting Reply Comments by the April 8 deadline in support of this filing, and highlighting some of the concerns and issues we have experienced in Minnesota.

 

February 2017 | Mike Reardon

 

Legislation has recently been introduced related to small cell wireless technology. This bill does not align with MACTA’s mission and member interests.

 

According to the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) “Cities Bulletin” 2/6/17 

 

“Minnesota is one of several states that are part of a nationwide push to limit cities’ power to have a say on where small cell wireless technology is installed and at what cost, among other limitations. Legislation introduced in both the House [HF739] and Senate [SF561] would restrict local authority to regulate companies seeking to install small cell wireless technology in public rights of way. The bill is being pushed by wireless carriers.”   

The bills, as introduced, are not acceptable for a variety of reasons as outlined in the above referenced “Cities Bulletin” link.

 

While the LMC has had at least a couple of meetings with AT&T to discuss this legislation (most recently on Feb. 13) – and even though AT&T has stated it will draft a “delete-all” amendment that LMC will review when ready – the LMC is currently actively opposing the bill and instructing its members to do the same.   


Thankfully, the LMC recognized last session that this legislation, which didn’t get any traction last year, was going to come back this winter.  During the interim, LMC has become fully knowledgeable and experts on the issues and concerns of how such legislation may impact local government’s ability to oversee its public rights-of-way.  

So, what should MACTA members do at this time? 

  1. MACTA will look to LMC to take the lead on this legislation and will support LMC’s efforts.
  2. We encourage all local government agencies to become familiar with the legislation, including using the link noted above. 
  3. We ask that all of you watch for possible action alerts and to respond accordingly when asked.
  4. And finally, please attend our March 6 Day at the Capitol event at LMC’s offices.  

2017 looks to be a busy year at the Capitol!

 

 

January 2017 | Mike Reardon

 

With Changes in Control at Both the State and Federal Levels, One Can Assume There Will Be Lots of Action on Legislative Floors

 

Here are four activities MACTA will be involved with thus far this year; with more I am sure to come.

MACTA’s Day at the Capitol – March 6
Please mark your calendars for MACTA’s Day at the Capitol event, on Monday, March 6.  After a year off, MACTA will again be holding its traditional “Day at the Capitol” event during the State’s legislative session.  (We didn’t hold one last year as we anticipated it to be a quiet session regarding MACTA’s interests – and it was.)  However, it can presumed that will not be the case during the 2017 session.  Thus, it is important for MACTA to offer this opportunity for our members to hear from key state legislators who provide leadership in the senate and house committees that have oversight on cable, broadband and telecommunications.  In addition to meeting with and hearing from the legislators, LMC and MACTA will provide overviews of any key bills that might affect us.  For example, the wireless industry is preparing legislation pertaining to deployment of Small Cell Towers/DAS (distributed antenna systems) in local government’s rights-of-way.  In addition, we always encourage our members to go over to the state capitol to meet with their legislators following our morning event. Especially this year, with the capitol’s renovations finished, it is a great time to get a tour from one of your legislators.  Details on “Day @ the Cap” will be shortly forthcoming, including registration information, so please save the morning of March 6.

MACTA’s Annual Conference – June 21
While you have your calendar open, please go ahead and save Wednesday, June 21 for this year’s annual conference.  Both the conference planning and PEG committees have started putting together what promises to be an informative all-day event.   If there are topics you believe really need to be covered, we would love to hear from you.  But please don’t delay, as our goal is to have the itinerary set by March 1.   

MACTA’s Legislative Committee
One of the benefits of being a MACTA member is that on the second Thursday of each month, from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., you can receive the latest information on what is happening at the state and the federal levels.  Okay, so maybe listening to updates on state and federal legislative activities may not be the most exciting thing to do, but they can be very worthwhile.  And the good news, all you have to do is listen.  Jodie Miller, NATOA president, always provides the most recent information on what is happening at the federal level, both in congress and the FCC.  Joe Bagnoli (MACTA lobbyist) and Laura Ziegler (LMC intergovernmental relations) go over anything happening here in Minnesota.    In addition, there is always time for participants to share anything newsworthy of what is happening within their local franchising authority.  Again, nothing is required except reserving one hour of your time each month and calling in.  If you are interested in receiving the Legislative Committee’s monthly agenda announcements, with call-in information, please contact me at president@mactamn.org.   

FCC Considers Waiver of Registration and Certification Requirements for Closed Captioning Rules
Currently, as defined by the FCC, all PEG programmers will be required to register with the FCC by July 2017 as it pertains to the FCC’s revised closed captioning requirements.  While the FCC’s new rules should not be a burden for MACTA’s agency members, the Alliance for Community Media (a sister organization to NATOA) has petitioned the FCC to exclude what can be interpreted to include any and all public access producers.   The petition requests the FCC to waive the requirements for this class of video programmers from being subject to the FCC’s closed captioning and certification requirements.  NATOA and MACTA support this petition and will be filing in support of the petition.  In the next week or so, MACTA will be contacting MACTA member agencies to get an estimate from each of you as to the number of public and educational video program producers that may use your facility.  

These are just some of the ways that you can be assured MACTA is keeping a close eye on our state legislative actions.  As always, we will also be working closely with the League of Minnesota Cities for state matters and NATOA at the federal level.   I look forward to your participation in these and other important activities throughout 2017.  Thank you!    

 

December 2016 | Mike Reardon

 

Your MACTA Membership Helps Protect Your Interests in Cable, Broadband, Right-of-Way Management and More

 

Recently, your organization should have received your “2017 MACTA Membership Dues Renewal Notice.” It was delivered via email to your organization’s primary MACTA contact around Dec. 7. 

As MACTA members, we sometimes take for granted the benefits provided by this small, but mighty organization. It’s always good to reflect for a moment on those benefits – and really take stock in the value your membership provides. 

MACTA was incorporated in June 1983, and was formed as a non-profit organization primarily to assist municipalities and cable commissions in educating its members on cable franchise-related matters.  The association’s title reflected this mission – Minnesota Association of Cable Television Administrators.  

However, a lot has changed over the past three-plus decades, and MACTA has adapted with the changes.  In the 1990s MACTA officially changed its name to the Minnesota Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators to better reflect the scope of issues for which the organization was providing leadership, expertise, legislative action and education.   

Over the years, MACTA has also matured as a professional organization. In addition to providing more educational opportunities and information to its members -- MACTA has retained a lobbying firm for more than 15 years.  Part of your dues help fund our lobbyists – who in turn protect our members’ interests from legislation that threatens to weaken our cable franchising laws.   

MACTA is the only NATOA (National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors) state chapter that retains such a firm.  MACTA was instrumental during the years that “state franchising” was taking place across the country. Working with the League of Minnesota Cities, MACTA helped shut down these efforts in Minnesota – one of the few states that was successful in doing so.  

More recently, MACTA again came to the aid of local municipalities in 2014, when proposed “telecommunications” legislation was introduced that had the potential to negatively impact local cable franchising. Through our lobbyists, we were able to add the “MACTA Amendment” to the bill, again protecting local government’s cable franchising authority. 

Today, MACTA remains ready to protect its members’ interests.  We also continue to provide timely and useful information to members through our annual conferences, workshops, e-Brief newsletters and our newly established Quarterly Member Meetings.   

MACTA works very closely with both the League of Minnesota Cities and its parent organization NATOA.   These strong relationships ensures MACTA is on top of any legislation and policy activities at both the state and federal level.   MACTA is also developing relationships with other similarly focused non-profit associations that deal with broadband issues throughout Minnesota.  

We believe your MACTA membership investment serves you and your organization well.  If you still have available funding in your 2016 budget, now is a great time to renew, prior to the end of the year.  If not, your membership is good until Feb. 28, 2017.  

The MACTA board is already planning its annual conference on June 21, 2017 and MACTA will again hold a “Day at the Capitol” event during the week of Feb. 27.  This will also be the date of MACTA’s next quarterly membership meeting.  

Thank you for your past patronage – and we look forward to your continued membership in MACTA, the only non-profit association in Minnesota that solely focuses on your cable, telecommunications and broadband interests and activities.  May we continue to work together to protect these interests in 2017.  

 

November 2016 | Mike Reardon

 

Thank You To All Who Make MACTA Great

 

As I sat before my computer wondering what “presidential” message to convey this month, I realized that November’s message will probably be one of the easiest I have had the pleasure to write.  

In keeping with the spirit during this time of year, I want to express my gratitude to those groups and individuals that make MACTA great.

MACTA Board of Directors – What a great group of six people I get to work with on a regular basis.  Each director carries out their duties and ensures the various MACTA activities move along seamlessly.  

While I might receive the most exposure as the board President, you can be assured that if it were not for Janine Hill (Vice-President/Communications Committee), Karen George (Secretary/PEG Committee chair), Reg Dunlap (Treasurer/Membership Committee co-chair), Marty Doll (e-Brief coordinator/Communications Committee), Lori Pulkrabek (Communications Committee) and Eric Strouse (Membership Committee co-chair), the MACTA organization would not be able to function as well as it does.  They all do a great job and are always up for whatever task is needed! 

The Harrington Company (THC) – While you are probably familiar with each of the directors I just tipped my hat to, our management association firm keeps MACTA operating on a day-to-day basis.   As you may recall, last year at this time we started the transition from our former management firm to THC. The three account executives assigned to MACTA throughout this year have handled the change superbly and without missing a beat.   Thanks to Stephanie, Sara and Corinna!

PEG and Conference Committees – In February, the PEG Committee coordinated and conducted the “Storytelling Workshop” featuring Boyd Huppert.  This was, from all accounts, the most successful workshop MACTA has held.  Kudos to Karen George, Dennis Rafftery, Vanessa Van Alstine and Tim Sasse.  And welcome the new PEG Committee members Jackie Larson, Jon Lyksett, Nick Nelson and Carmen Hauck. This committee is already planning great things for 2017.    

And speaking of planning, Cor Wilson again led the Annual Conference Committee with Reg Dunlap, Karen George, Carmen Hauck and Janine Hill -- all contributing their time and energy to ensuring it was a great educational day for all.   A big thank you to both committees!

McGrann Shea – Most of you know MACTA’s lobbyists as Joe Bagnoli and Sarah Psick, but our actual contract is with the firm of McGrann Shea Carnival Straughn and Lamb (McGrann Shea).  Behind the scenes this year, it became apparent that McGrann Shea had a building conflict of interest between MACTA and an unnamed client.  I am very pleased to say that McGrann Shea chose to continue to represent MACTA – even though the other client definitely had deeper pockets.  

 

But, alas, we also found out that we would be parting ways with Sarah, as she has decided to leave Mcgrann Shea and venture out on her own.  I want to thank both Joe and Sarah for the great service they have provided. I look forward to working with Joe going forward and wish Sarah all the best in her new endeavors.  

League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) and NATOA – MACTA works very closely with both of these organizations dealing with policies at the State and Federal level.  Twice this year, MACTA joined a coalition of other similar professional associations, with similar broadband interests, and submitted letters to State Legislators and the Governor’s Broadband Task Force conveying our concerns and requests.  

The LMC provided valuable assistance in coordinating these efforts and drafting the messages.  Throughout the year MACTA works closely with the LMC on policy guidance in the areas of cable, telecom and broadband. A huge thank you goes to LMC’s intergovernmental relations liaison, Laura Ziegler who serves as our primary contact at LMC.  

MACTA, as NATOA’s state chapter, relies on the national leadership of our parent organization matters that may affect our members from a federal perspective.   NATOA’s executive director, Steve Traylor, and our very own Jodie Miller who currently serves as NATOA’s president, are always available to answer our questions and provide assistance on when and how MACTA and its members need to get involved in national matters.  Thank you and thanks to all of the knowledgeable NATOA members.

City of Saint Paul – I also need to personally thank the City of Saint Paul and my boss, Tarek Tomes, for continuing to allow me this great opportunity to serve on the MACTA Board of Directors.  The support I receive is deeply appreciated.  

MACTA Members – Finally, but definitely not least, I want to thank all of you for being a member of MACTA.  Each and every member organization, their staff and public officials make up the essence of MACTA.   Not all states, in fact very few, have an organization like MACTA.   It is a testament to each and every one of you, and is why MACTA remains strong and committed to protecting your interests and providing educational/information opportunities.   Please consider this message, a pat on the back, a firm and sincere handshake, and a strong bearhug of appreciation and gratitude!  

THANKS! 

 

October 2016 | Mike Reardon

 

2017 Membership Dues Will See a Slight Increase

 

For the first time since 2003, MACTA members will experience a slight increase in their annual membership dues beginning in 2017.  


The MACTA Board of Directors has determined that a five (5) percent increase will be needed to keep abreast of rising costs, cover a slight reduction in annual revenues, and maintain the recommended and prudent operating surplus.  All levels of MACTA member dues will see this increase in 2017 (Click here to see the breakdown.)   

As members will recall, not only is this the first overall increase in 14 years, but dues were also substantially reduced in 2010 for all members – and again last year for some members when the base for assessing dues was adjusted from “cable subscriber” numbers to “population.”  The 2017 MACTA membership dues invoice will be emailed to each member’s “agency contact” later in November.  

*Please note, the dues will be rounded up to the nearest $5 increment. (i.e., If a 5 percent adjustment resulted in new dues of $1,837.50, the actual dues will be $1,840.) 

Thank you all for your continued support and membership!

 

September 2016 | Mike Reardon

 

Are Small Cell Towers Bigger Than You Think?

 

For those of you who were unable to attend the 2016 NATOA Annual Conference, I’d like to share with you what was perhaps my biggest take away.  This topic actually came to light for me several months ago, and was solidified during two sessions at the conference. I am referring to small cell tower (SCT) placement in public rights-of-way (ROW).   

As a cable administrator, my typical daily focus is on cable franchise issues and PEG operations. As conversations about SCTs and distributed antenna systems (DAS) have become more prevalent on NATOA’s listserve, I have only paid slight attention to them … until recently.  

Now, the lightbulb has come on.  The proliferation of SCT applications, and the approach that some companies are taking in submitting them to localities, is really no different than applications for cable franchises.  Private companies, whether they be telecom/cellular providers or the tower companies themselves, need to access the public ROW to provide services to the consumer.  

Thankfully, the League of Minnesota Cities has been on top of this in Minnesota made the topic it’s lead article in the Sept. 6 edition of LMC’s “Cities Bulletin.” The article is meant to help cities deal with this growing demand for SCTs.  It is my prediction that SCT applications will become the biggest ROW issue local governments will face over the next couple of years. 

While these applications may not be in our “lane” as cable administrators, we can definitely send a quick email to our planning, public works or administration departments. We can help ensure they are aware of the LMC’s information, and how important it is to have good, strong legal advice to protect the use of the ROW and make sure we receive just compensation for allowing that use.   

MACTA Holds First Quarterly Member Meeting on Oct. 24 … NOT Oct. 19

As noted last month, the MACTA Board is excited to introduce regular quarterly meetings for its members.  Our first meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 24, which is a change from last month’s announcement of Oct. 19.   

The intent of the quarterly gatherings is to discuss a selected topic and share what is happening in each members’ franchise areas.  The Oct. 24 topic will be “Closed Captioning” and will include recent updates on this issue.  

What:
  Quarterly MACTA Member Meeting
When: Monday, Oct. 24 at 11 a.m.
Where:   MACTA Headquarters (The Harrington Company), 4248 Park Glen Road, St. Louis Park
 
Box lunches will be available for purchase.  Further information on how to register for the meeting and to order your lunch choices will be coming out under a separate email in the near future. 

MACTA Holds Annual Business Meeting on Oct. 24 … NOT Oct. 19

In addition to the quarterly meeting, the MACTA Board will also hold its annual member business meeting.  The business meeting will take place immediately following the quarterly meeting on Oct. 24.  

As part of the business meeting, we will hold an election for four (4) Board of Directors seats (two-year terms).  The board will also go over its finances and hopes to hear from members on any questions or concerns they may have as MACTA members.  We hope to conclude both the quarterly meeting and board meeting by 1 p.m. 

 

 

August 2016 | Mike Reardon

MACTA Annual Membership Business Meeting AND First Quarterly Meeting is Oct. 19

In last month’s e-Brief, I reported that the MACTA Board will start hosting quarterly luncheon meetings for MACTA members. These meetings will take place at MACTA’s office in St. Louis Park (The Harrington Company, 4248 Park Glen Road). 

We envision that there will be a selected topic for each meeting – and time for each member to share what is happening in their locality. The Board hopes this offers members a regular opportunity to learn more about a specific topic and to exchange information about things happening in their LFA. 

I am glad to announce our first quarterly meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 11:00 a.m. at MACTA’s office in St. Louis Park.  The general topic for discussion has yet to be determined, but please mark your calendars for the gathering.  Lunch will be provided at a minimal cost.

In addition to the quarterly meeting, we will also hold the 2016 MACTA Annual Business Meeting!  Okay, so maybe the annual membership meeting doesn’t deserve the excitement of an exclamation point, but nevertheless, we see this as a good time for members to learn, share and participate as MACTA members.   More details will be announced in the September e-Brief.  

This year, four Board of Directors’ terms are expiring – so we need a good contingency of membership to elect directors to the board at the annual meeting.   Serving on the board provides a great opportunity for personal and professional growth; to attain a better understanding of key issues that may affect your city/commission; and to further develop your network of peers.  If you have an interest in serving on the MACTA Board of Directors, please contact me, or any current board member, with any questions you may have. 

Oh, and don’t forget to mark your calendar for Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 11:00 a.m. for MACTA’s Quarterly and Annual Business meetings.  (Did I mention that already?) Woopie!

 

 

July 2016 | Mike Reardon

MACTA to Host Quarterly Member Meetings

Over the years, MACTA has been a uniting body whenever a significant, common issue arose that impacted numerous Twin Cities’ local franchising authorities (LFA). Often, many of the LFA cable administrators would gather to exchange information, compare notes, and when applicable, agree to work together on addressing the issue.  These meetings have always provided a lot of value for me personally – and I hope and I hope the same is true for all who have attended.  

On July 14, we held an informal gathering of approximately a dozen LFA administrators at QCTV in Champlin (thanks Karen George!)  During this meeting, we discussed cable customer service issues and our methods and ability to report them. It also provided an opportunity for each LFA to compare notes pertaining to recent issues they have been encountering with CenturyLink and Comcast.  

The MACTA Board of Directors has recognized that, while our annual conference is a great place to learn and network, it only happens once a year. It appears there is a strong need for a more regular exchange of information.   As such, the Board has decided to start hosting quarterly luncheon meetings for MACTA members. These meetings will be held at MACTA’s office (The Harrington Company, 4248 Park Glen Road, St. Louis Park).   

We envision that prior to each meeting, we will select a topic of discussion.  The Board discussed whether these meetings should rotate locations at member sites, and what time of day was best to conduct the meetings.  It was determined – at least for the first several meetings – that meeting from approximately 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at a centralized location, with adequate free parking, was probably fairest to all.  

Our first official quarterly meeting will be scheduled for October.  The exact date will be announced in the August e-Brief.  I look forward to seeing you there!

 

June 2016 | Mike Reardon

A REALLY Big Thank You to Toby Keeler, and a Hearty Welcome to Eric Strouse

  


Toby Keeler and Mike Reardon Eric Strouse

 

The week before Memorial weekend, I learned that Toby Keeler – who had served on the MACTA Board of Directors since 2012 – would unfortunately have to leave the board as of June 1, 2016. Toby’s eligibility to serve on the Board (based on his term as a commissioner for the St. Louis Park Cable Commission) was affected when the City changed its advisory bodies’ appointment process. This resulted in a premature termination of Toby’s term on the commission.

 

Because MACTA’s bylaws require all directors to be actively connected to a MACTA member’s organization (i.e., staff, appointed/elected official, etc.), Toby was no longer eligible to serve.     

Needless to say, I was both saddened and concerned to lose Toby’s expertise. He has solidly served the Board as its treasurer for the past 3.5 years – and has overseen the association’s budget with a keen, trained business eye. Toby has guided us through some interesting financial times as we changed association management firms, and he worked hard to ensure MACTA’s dues structure best represented its membership base.  

Toby has left his post with MACTA on solid financial ground. Thank you Toby! I will truly miss your valuable insight. Not only financial, but also your smart common-business sense.  

But, as the saying goes, “the show must go on.” Thankfully, Eric Strouse, Station Manager for the City of Coon Rapids, had previously expressed interest in serving on the Board. At the Board’s June 9 meeting, Eric was appointed to fulfill Toby’s remaining 18-month term. Eric will be bringing nearly 22 years of experience overseeing CTN Studios.  He has graciously agreed to co-chair the Membership Committee with Reg Dunlap, and is willing to do “other duties as assigned.” Thanks Eric for stepping up to serve the MACTA membership.  

And speaking of stepping up (or maybe being pushed up) Reg Dunlap graciously accepted the position of MACTA’s treasurer. One of the first major items on Reg’s plate will be our financial audit. Not that there is any concern with our finances, but there have been some questions as to how Toby was able to recently purchase (with cash) a 27-foot Boston Whaler 285 Conquest sports fishing boat for his winter home in Key West.  :)  I’m kidding, of course!

 

 

May 2016 | Mike Reardon

State Legislative Action Still Up in the Air

 

It is befitting that our State Capitol is poised high upon a hill in St. Paul. With only days left to go before its scheduled adjournment on May 23, most major legislative issues are still up in the air – including those that concern MACTA.

 

While there has not been a bill proposed this year that is of deep concern for MACTA – such as past attempts to enact statewide cable franchising – there are still a few bills we’ve been closely monitoring to ensure that they do not negatively impact our members and local governments. 

 

With a couple of exceptions, most bills that have garnered MACTA’s attention this year have been piled into the Senate and House Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill (OSBB).  Piled is a befitting term, given the term “omnibus” is synonymous with compilation.  I can see a legislator saying, “Gee, I’m not quite sure what to do with this bill. Hey, I know, I’ll just make it a part of the omnibus bill.” While the House and Senate OSBB is focused on providing supplemental funding, it truly is a place where seemingly almost anything will land. 

 

Among the pile are former individual bills pertaining to solar power, tractor rollover protection, avian influenza, managing minerals, surplus land, and my favorite – aquatic macrophyte.  Oh, and of course, legislation related to numerous broadband funding options and development. For example, voice-over-internet protocol service (VoIP) (which includes the “MACTA amendment” excluding video/cable under the VoIP definition) and small cell/tower siting initiatives.  

 

At this writing, it is hard to tell what will become of any of the legislation referenced above.  We should hopefully know by Monday, May 23, when the legislature is set to adjourn.  I just hope they adopt aquatic macrophyte as the new term for macro algae. 

 

To help explain what this all means, even perhaps why the State needs a new term for macro algae, our esteemed legislative and policy panel of experts will be presenting at MACTA’s 33rd Annual Conference on June 9.  (Nice segue, huh?  Bet you didn’t see that shameless plug for the conference coming.)  Of course, there will be six other sessions not dealing with legislative policies.  So, please come and learn, see some familiar faces, make some new friends, and learn about aquatic plants.  Err, I mean about MACTA stuff!  

 

April 2016 | Mike Reardon

May 23, 2016 is an Important Date for MACTA Members.

 

Ok, so you may ask, “Mike, why is May 23 an important date for me as a MACTA member?” Besides the fact that May 23 is National Lucky Penny Day. (Where do they come up with these?) And the date Benjamin Franklin announced his invention of bifocals. (Thanks, Ben!) This year May 23 has additional significance.

 

First, May 23 is the last day members can receive the “early bird” reduced registration rate for MACTA’s 2016 Annual Conference (June 9). This is a 22 percent reduction off the normal member rate – so please make sure you take advantage of it!

 

May 23 is also important for Minnesotans in general, and specifically for agencies that may be affected by new legislation. This is the date the Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to adjourn. Ok, so maybe not as important as National Taffy Day, (yep on May 23 as well), but nevertheless, it is the day we learn what this year’s legislative session has brought.

 

As noted in last month’s e-Brief, it appears there will be no significant legislation that will cause MACTA members to lose any sleep. However, it is hoped the legislature will expedite, and perhaps make retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year, sales tax relief for joint powers entities such as cable commissions.  Please note that this decision may not happen until the 11th hour of the session as part of the comprehensive Budget Bill. 

 

Other legislation we’ve been closely monitoring is now lumped into the House Omnibus Jobs Finance Bill - HF 3931.  This bill outlines the House’s vision for additional broadband funding and funding eligibility.

 

At this writing, according to our lobbyist Joe Bagnoli, “The differences between the House and Senate [legislative bill versions] are currently enormous. Thus, it is not entirely clear how the two bodies and the Governor will come together in an agreement by the end of session.” 

 

HF 3931 also contains language for telephone deregulation and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services.  This is the second year these two bills have been considered and the “MACTA Amendment,” (added during last year’s session to protect LFAs cable franchising rights under State Statute Sec. 238), is still included on page 69, Lines 17-22.  Our amendment exempts video services delivered by any cable communications system, cable service or any other IP-Enabled video service.  

 

One thing that may not be decided by the Legislature by May 23 is the status of regulating small cell towers. A bill promoted by the wireless industry was introduced that would have significant impact on how local governments can regulate the placement and location of small cell towers in their communities. The League of Minnesota Cities quickly defended local government’s authority in these matters and MACTA has signed on with other similar associations. It appears this matter will be considered by a task force after the session is adjourned.

 

So, please do not forget to circle May 23 on your calendars, and pick up a lucky penny, eat some taffy and register for MACTA’s June 9 Annual Conference. And to think, this all occurs on a Monday! 

 

March 2016 | Mike Reardon

As of this writing, Minnesota’s legislature has only been in session for little over a week – but there are already a few bills on which MACTA has made its position known.

 

S.F. 2249 – Municipal Sales Tax Exemption: Accelerate Effective Date (Companion to HF 2387)

In 2013, the State legislature reinstated its sales tax exemption for most units of local government – BUT not all.  Unfortunately, for MACTA members structured as cable commissions and established through joint powers agreements, the 2013 legislation classified them as “special districts,” which did not qualify for the sales tax break. 

 

This “special district” classification has financially impacted nearly 80 government agencies represented by MACTA that are serving under the umbrella of a joint powers agreement.

 

This loophole was supposed to be corrected during the 2015 legislative session, and take effect at the start of 2016.  However, during the last minutes of the 2015 session, this sales tax loophole was continued through this year. 

 

SF 2249 (companion to HF 2387) is intended to retroactively remedy this situation, and provide the sales tax exemption effective at the beginning of this year, not waiting until Jan. 1, 2017. 

 

MACTA has already submitted a letter to the Senate Tax Reform Division urging them to approve and move forward with SF 2249 as drafted. 

 

S.F. 2447 - Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Eligibility Regulation and Appropriation.

Over the past two years, the legislature has funded the State’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program, administered by the State’s Office of Broadband Development. The funding has been approximately $20 million in 2014 and $10 million in 2015. 

 

The intent of this funding is to award matching grants to providers, including municipal broadband operations, to provide broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of greater Minnesota.

 

This year, Governor Dayton has requested the amount be increased to $100 million, while the House has offered a bill requesting $30 million.  In addition, the Governor’s Broadband Task Force recommends funding $200 million, evenly split over the next two years.

S.F. 2447, authored by Sen. Matt Schmit, includes the recommendations from the Governor’s Broadband Task Force, including funding. 

 

MACTA supports S.F. 2447 and has signed on with the League of Minnesota Cities and other local government-related agencies expressing our support for S.F. 2447.

 

Bill Tracking and Monitoring

MACTA will continue to monitor these two bills, and any others that may impact our members.     Depending on what happens at the Capitol, we may ask you to take a specific action on a bill. 

 

As has been past practice, each Friday throughout the session, MACTA’s lobbyists Joe Bagnoli and Sarah Psick with McGrann Shea, will provide their weekly Capitol Update Report to MACTA members. The updates provide an overview of general key legislative activities during the past week. 

 

In addition, they also track any legislation (Session Tracker) that has a hint of cable, telecom or broadband in the bills.  

 

Both the Capitol Update Report and Session Tracker can be accessed by logging in to MACTA’s Members Only section at www.mactamn.org.  


 

February 2016 | Mike Reardon

While it may not be necessary to lock the doors and bar the windows, you may want to prepare to take cover at noon, on Tuesday, March 8.  For that is when the Minnesota Legislature convenes for 2016. 

 

All joking aside, there will be a lot of activity starting the minute the 2016 session is gaveled to convene.  In fact, there have already been numerous State legislative committee meetings with bills being drafted and lined up for introduction once business officially starts. So, does any of this pre-session activity have any impact on our MACTA’s members?  Well… yes it might. 


 

MACTA Supports HF2387 - Acceleration of Sales Tax Exemption for Joint Powers Boards

Of keen interest to all members who operate as a joint powers board/commission, HF2387 will be introduced – attempting to expedite the ability for joint powers boards/commissions to be exempt from paying sales tax. 

 

A couple of years ago, the State agreed to exempt local government entities from paying sales tax; however, they failed to include joint powers entities under that provision.Last year, legislation was passed that would exempt joint powers entities affective January 2017.HF 2387 is intended to either make the exemption retroactive to January 2016, or provide for an earlier exemption date than January 2017.The MACTA Board supports this legislation and will work with the League of Minnesota Cities in an attempt to get it passed.   

 

MACTA Supports $100 Million in Broadband Funding in Minnesota

Another position officially taken by the MACTA Board at our February meeting was to support Governor Dayton’s request to provide an additional $100 million in grant funds for broadband development to unserved and underserved areas of Minnesota. 

 

The grant funds would be administered by the Office of Broadband Development.The Governor’s Broadband Task Force also recommends, as part of its 2015 annual report to the Governor, that $200 million be appropriated over the next two years for the same activities.This is in contrast to HF2381, which proposes $35 million for broadband – 60 percent to unserved and 40 percent to underserved areas.

 

Blandin on Broadband’s Community Broadband Assessment Tool

Speaking of broadband, Blandin on Broadband (a chapter of the Blandin Foundation), has introduced a new, online Community Broadband Assessment tool.According to Blandin’s Ann Treacy,

“With a focus on broadband infrastructure and services, the assessment helps a community determine where it stands in comparison to other communities as it relates to access to main Internet points of presence, fiber availability to key institutions and business customers, competitive pricing and available broadband speeds.

 

In addition, the tool helps communities consider the ubiquity of broadband within their whole county or market area and whether they can count on their broadband service providers as community partners.”

 

The assessment is available online. Blandin suggests a community gather and discuss the information, then complete the assessment online.If you are a community considering how to approach broadband options, you may wish to check out this new tool.

 

MACTA Well Served for a Decade by McGrann Shea

I assume there will be other pieces of legislation coming forward over the next several weeks, and again this session (as has been the case since 2007) Joe Bagnoli and Sarah Psick from the firm of McGrann Shea will be representing MACTA’s member’s interest on the “Hill.”You can expect regular updates from them as the session moves forward.   

 

 

January 2016 | Mike Reardon

I’m not sure who said it, (maybe it was me?), but, “If you don’t toot your own horn, chances are no one else will.” With that said, Toot! Toot!

 

MACTA had another great, busy year, and I am proud to share with you our 2015 activities and accomplishments! Many were significant changes in how MACTA operates that should provide overarching benefits to the organization – hopefully for years to come.    


Change in Membership Dues Structure 
As you all know, MACTA’s focus has expanded dramatically since its inception in 1983.  No longer does MACTA only advocate in matters pertaining to cable franchising and PEG. Today, we also focus on issues and activities pertaining to telecommunications, broadband, rights-of-way and wireless at the local, state and national levels. 

As a result of this broadening landscape, and to keep pace with the ever-changing telecommunications world, the Board of Directors realized that a change to MACTA’s dues structure from a “cable subscriber model” to a “population-based model” was required.  With a couple of minor exceptions, this change (implemented on 2016 membership dues) had no impact on rates paid by members. However, it will enable MACTA to continue to meet its members’ demands for the foreseeable future.  

New Management 
In 2015, the Board of Directors also conducted a thorough internal examination of “what we do,” and “how we do it” when it comes to serving members.  This self-assessment helped shape our request for proposals for an association management firm.  

From those proposals, MACTA chose to retain The Harrington Company (THC) as our new association management firm, replacing Ewald, which had served MACTA well for a number of years. THC, located in St. Louis Park, will help us continue to fine-tune the services we provide to members, reduce costs and provide efficiencies.  

Membership Survey
MACTA also conducted a membership survey to get a sense as to how well we are serving our members.  I am extremely glad to learn that nearly 90 percent of you believe that “MACTA provides value.”  If you haven’t had the chance to review the survey results, I encourage you to look at them here. While of course, we would prefer a 100 percent response, we can at minimum know that we are on the right track – with room for improvement.

Last year, we produced 12 monthly “eBrief” newsletters, which provided timely updates on a variety of useful and informative topics.  According to the Member Survey, 91 percent of respondents said “The eBrief contains useful and relevant content.”

The Defunct Comcast/Time Warner/Greatland Merger
One of MACTA’s other significant endeavors actually started in 2014 and concluded in 2015.  MACTA provided the coordination of a large financial review of the pending Comcast-Time Warner-Greatland transfers of ownership.  Twelve organizations participated, and with MACTA serving as the coordinator, they were able to save money by pooling the funds to retain an outside consultant.  In the end, the consultants findings were not necessarily used by most members as Comcast cancelled the proposed transfers based on a variety of factors.  

A possible carry-over from the proposed transfer is a condition requested by MACTA during its FCC filings. While MACTA took no position on whether the FCC should approve or deny the transfer, MACTA DID request that Comcast’s Internet Essentials program benefits be extended to senior citizens who meet income qualifications as a part of any transfer of ownership.  Obviously, MACTA cannot take sole credit, but Comcast is now considering an extension of these benefits to seniors.

Legislation
MACTA participated in several other regulatory matters in 2015 that had the potential for positive outcomes, or possibly negated negative ones: 

  • While Minnesota legislation HF776/SF895 was not adopted last year, it was introduced to deregulate VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) service, with the intent to only affect State Chapter 237 (telecommunications).  However, the bill’s initial definition of VoIP included voice, data AND video. MACTA proposed a language amendment, excluding “video services provided by a cable communications system, as defined in Section 238 … or cable service as defined in [US code] … or any other IP-enabled video service,” which was added to the bill and referred to as the “MACTA Amendment.” 

  • Authored May 15 Letter to FCC - Amendment to the Commission’s [FCC] Rules Concerning Effective Competition and Implementation of Section 111 of the STELA Reauthorization Act, MB Docket No. 15-53
    Authored April 14 Letter to the Minnesota’s Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Budget Committee members to ensure that funding for the state Office of Broadband and a continuation of the Border-to-Border matching broadband grants program would be included in the final state budget for the next biennium.

  • Assisted with Jodie Miller’s Feb. 15 presentation to the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband regarding the value of Institutional Networks.  

  • I am currently serving as MACTA’s liaison with League of Minnesota Cities and Chair their Telecom Task Force. I also sit on LMC’s Local Economies Policy Committee.

  • Continued to develop MACTA’s relationship with the Blandin Foundation’s broadband efforts in greater Minnesota, and recently officially endorsed the Blandin Broadband mission statement, “Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.”

  • Finally, as requested and necessary, MACTA continued to work closely with its sister organization NATOA (National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors).

As you can see, MACTA continues to be at the table on a variety of legislative and policy activities, both state and federal. And, as our recent survey noted, half of the respondents indicated “protecting MACTA’s member’s policy interests” is their number one priority.  We aim to continue to do so in 2016.

Annual Conference
Last, but definitely not the least, MACTA held its annual conference in June with approximately 110 in attendance. We are currently busy planning our next annual conference for June 9.  

Phew…. Like I said, we were busy in 2015 and expect to be busy again this year.  Regardless, you can be assured the MACTA Board of Directors will continue to look for ways to improve our services and protect your interests.  Wishing you all a happy, and perhaps a bit less stressful, new year!

 

 

 

December 2015 | Mike Reardon

 

Mike Reardon

A Big Thank You to Mike Johnson and a Hearty Welcome to Reg Dunlap!

Mike Johnson, Executive Director for the Northwest Suburbs Cable Communications Commission, will be stepping down from the MACTA Board of Directors at the end of the year.  Mike served for two years (which, by the way, was his second stint on the board) and was co-chair of the Board’s Membership Committee. 

During this time, he was instrumental in helping research and implement MACTA’s recent change in dues structure – from a cable subscriber model to a population-based model. His hard work helped ensure MACTA’s dues structure continued to be the best representation of its membership base into the future.

Mike, it was a pleasure having you on the board. Your years of experience will be missed.

MACTA 2015 Board of Directors

Speaking of years of experience (ever feel like you might have been at this job awhile…?) the Board and MACTA members are blessed to have Reg Dunlap agree to serve his second tour on the board.

Reg previously served one term from 1998-2000.  Reg, who has served as the City of St. Louis Park’s Civic TV Coordinator since 1988, was elected at MACTA’s recent annual business meeting and will take a seat on the board in January. Thankfully, Reg has eagerly agreed (without even being asked) to take Mike’s place as chair of the Membership Committee.   Welcome aboard Reg!

MACTA Welcomes New Management Firm         
As noted in last month’s e-Brief, The Harrington Company (THC) will take over managing the daily activities of MACTA on Jan. 1.   THC is as excited in serving as our new management firm as we are to have them!   A transition plan was implemented in late October between our current firm, Ewald & Associates and THC. It is expected to be complete prior to the end of the year. 

So, what does this mean to you as a member?  Well, the transition and new operations should be seamless.  MACTA’s website will not change, so you can continue to register and pay for conferences, membership dues, etc., in the same manner. 

THC has years of management experience, so handling the annual conference and MACTA’s  daily routines, which really on average are minimal, will be second nature to them.  The only real difference you should note is MACTA’s new address and phone number. 

If you prefer to mail your 2016 membership dues or conference registrations, please note our new contact information:  

The Harrington Company
4248 Park Glen Road
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Telephone:  952-928-4653
Email:  info@mactamn.org

I would also like to take this time to thank Ewald & Associates for years of great service to the Board and MACTA members.  In one form or another, MACTA and Ewald go back to the early 1990s, when MACTA hired Office Enterprises Inc. (OEI) as its first management firm.  OEI was owned by John Arlandson, who agreed to merge OEI into Ewald in 2008.   Ewald & Associates have provided MACTA with great services over the years, and we have worked with some wonderful people at Ewald.  I wish them all the best.

 

November 2015 | Mike Reardon

 

MACTA Retains New Management Association

For the past decade, MACTA has retained the association management firm of Ewald & Associates.  You have probably noticed their name in emails and invoices – or met their staff at our conferences. However, for the most part, they have worked silently behind the scenes to ensure MACTA’s daily business activities function smoothly. 

 

Earlier this year, it was amicably decided by both Ewald and the MACTA Board of Directors, that a change was best for both organizations.  Primarily, as Ewald has grown into an international operation – (and MACTA is by far their smallest client) – the cost to provide MACTA with management services was becoming prohibitive for both parties.

 

As a result, the MACTA Board developed a comprehensive request for proposals, and conducted a thorough search for a firm that would fit our needs and pocketbook. 

 

I am very pleased to announce that we have retained the services of The Harrington Company, based in St. Louis Park, Minn.  While Ewald will continue to provide management services to MACTA through the end of the year, THC has also been retained so the transition process can commence.  A transition plan has been executed, which will result in a hopefully seamless transition for our members.

 

The transition should not affect our website, conference planning or any other activities/services you utilize as a member.  More information – including new telephone numbers, addresses, etc. for MACTA – will be provided to you before the end of the year.

 

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to welcome The Harrington Company. We are looking forward to working with them. 

 

October 2015 | Mike Reardon

 

MACTA’s Annual Membership Business Meeting and Board Elections are Thursday, Oct. 29

I truly hope you and/or a representative from your agency, is able to attend MACTA’s Annual Membership Business Meeting on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 4:30 pm.  While the full agenda has not yet been determined, the following items will indeed be on the agenda for discussion:

  • Review of MACTA’s activities and accomplishments over the past year
  • The results of the membership survey
  • Change in membership dues from a subscriber base to a population base
  • Status of retaining a new management services firm
  • Financial overview of the organization

In addition to these items, there will also be an election for three director seats on our board.  Unfortunately, both Mike Johnson and Toby Keeler have decided not to run for another term. Their contributions and devotion to the board and MACTA will be sorely missed.  My seat on the board, is the third seat whose term will expire at the end of the year.

 

Serving on the MACTA Board of Directors is a truly gratifying, educational and rewarding experience.  Each director is expected to attend the monthly board conference call, lasting approximately one hour.  In addition, each director serves on one of several active committees, including Communications, Membership, Conference, PEG and Legislative. The amount of time commitment for each of these committees varies, but it should be assumed it may add a couple of more hours to a person’s monthly schedule.

 

So, you can see the time commitment is definitely manageable – plus the benefits one receives with working with their fellow colleagues on activities and issues that affect each of us in our professional lives is worth every moment.  

 

If you are interested in serving on the MACTA Board starting in 2016, with a term of only two years, then please contact me to let me know of your interest.  I will also gladly attempt to answer any questions you may have. 

 

I look forward to hopefully seeing many of my fellow MACTA friends and colleagues at our annual business meeting:

 

Thursday, October 29 at 4:30 p.m.
North Suburban Cable Commission Office
2670 Arthur Street, Roseville, Minn.  

 

 

September 2015 | Mike Reardon

 

MACTA Serves as Telecommunications Policy Experts by League of Minnesota Cities (LMC)

MACTA and the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) have had a long standing affiliation.  In fact, at my very first MACTA Annual Conference in 1988 – (yeah, I know some of you reading this may not have been born yet) – Ann Higgins (former LMC government relations/lobbyist) was a keynote speaker. 

 

Over the years, as LMC has gone through its annual process of revising and adopting legislative policies, they have sought MACTA’s expertise on policy matters related to cable, broadband, telecommunications, etc.

 

On behalf of MACTA and the City of Saint Paul, I have served on the LMC’s Improving Local Economies (ILE) Policy Committee for the past 10 years.  The ILE Policy Committee is one of four committees the LMC relies on to annually review and establish policy recommendations for the LMC board to consider each November. In all, the LMC has more than 150 different policies covering the gambit of municipal issues.  The ILE is home to five policies relating to MACTA’s main interests: Telecommunications, Cable Franchising, Rights-of-Way, Broadband, and Towers and Antennas. 

 

Several years ago, the LMC established the Telecommunications Task Force. One of this group’s responsibilities is to advise the LMC on the previously mentioned policies.  MACTA has had good representation on the task force, with members including Tom Garrison (Eagan) as the initial chair, Jodie Miller (NDC4), Cor Wilson (NSCCC), Lisa Veith (St. Paul) and yours truly.  (For the past two years I have chaired the task force.)  The group is also represented by other LMC members – both municipal elected officials and staff – as well as members of the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association and Metro Cities Association. 

 

This year, the task force reviewed the five ILE policy, LE-15 through LE-19, and provided minor tweaks to them.  It was determined the policies were, for the most part, still very timely and accurate portrayals of the general legislative landscape.  On Sept. 15, the ILE approved these minor changes. The LMC membership has the opportunity to review all policy statements and proposed recommendations during the month of October, prior to the board’s final adoption in November. 

 

The task force also agreed, that while these policies are sufficient to address any matters which may arise during the 2016 Minnesota Legislative Session, the group should meet again this fall to start preparing for long-range planning concerning the changing Minnesota telecommunications regulatory landscape.  While there is not much to share at this time – nor any concerns for alarm – it can be assumed over the next several years there will be legislation introduced, most certainly at the federal level and possibly at the state level as well.  MACTA and the LMC want to be fully prepared in the event this happens. 

 

 

August 2015 | Mike Reardon

 

MACTA’s Annual Membership Business Meeting is Thursday, Oct. 29

I am pleased to announce the 2015 MACTA Annual Business Meeting will be held on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 4:30 pm at the North Suburban Cable Commission offices in Roseville (2670 Arthur St.).

As you may recall, until last year, the annual business meeting was held as part of our annual conference – traditionally in the fall. The timing of incorporating our business meeting into the fall conference made sense, since MACTA’s fiscal operations and the Board of Director’s terms coincide with the calendar year.

With NATOA’s annual conference being held last September/October in Saint Paul, MACTA chose to move its own annual conference to June. The annual business meeting was kept in the fall during the NATOA conference, since many of our members were in attendance.

Once the annual business meeting had been separated from the conference, both the MACTA Board of Directors and Conference Planning Committee realized its absence provided additional time for learning opportunities/sessions during the conference.

The spring conference also saw increased attendance versus our traditional fall date. Thus, the Board decided to keep the conference in June – and forgo trying to squeeze in the business meeting.  Instead, the Board agreed to move it to a fall timeframe as a standalone opportunity for members to gather to review and discuss MACTA’s operations, etc.

While this might have been much more background information than you wanted to know, I believe it is important to explain the reasons for holding the business meeting as a standalone event.  As for this year’s date and location, the Board recognized that a portion of our members would already be attending the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC) annual conference in Saint Paul on Oct. 29. This meant at least a portion of our members can just travel ten minutes up the road at the conclusion of the MAGC conference.

More information on the business meeting will be available in our September e-Brief. Please mark your calendars now for MACTA’s Business Meeting on Oct. 29. It will be a great opportunity to share your thoughts and concerns with both the Board and your fellow members.  And in this case, a great opportunity to network too!   See you then!

 

 

July 2015 | Mike Reardon

Cable Competition is Finally Coming to the Twin Cities Market

 

Year in and year out, one of the most consistent complaints I address as a cable administrator is the lack of wireline cable competition available to residents.  I lost count years ago how many times I explained to someone filing a complaint:

“Yes, I understand your frustration thinking the City has an exclusive franchise with (fill in the cable company name)… but actually, federal and state law (as well as our franchise) prohibit the City from granting an exclusive franchise.  In fact, the City welcomes competition.”
Sound familiar cable officials?  Yes, there has been satellite competition, which definitely has impacted the cable market. Most recently, we’ve also seen over-the-top internet options providing an alternative.  But, until this year, the Twin Cities market has not experienced head-to-head competition from another wireline cable provider. Now, with CenturyLink seeking cable franchises for its “Prism” video services in the Twin Cities market, municipalities and cable commissions are finally being asked to consider granting a second cable franchise. 
To many, granting a competitive cable franchise to CenturyLink seems like it should be a very simple task for Local Franchise Authorities (LFAs).  After all, don’t we all want competition?  However, granting a second franchise requires significant due diligence from each LFA – and the list of challenging issues seems to grow with each passing meeting.

To actually negotiate a second franchise with CenturyLink, LFAs must take into consideration how it may impact their current franchise provisions, and how a CenturyLink franchise should address State law provisions regarding build out.  (The area within the LFA’s territory that is required to be serviced by the operator.)

Franchise requirements regarding build out have proven to be the most challenging both legally and politically.  Minnesota State law appears to require complete build out from the competitor within five years. CenturyLink, on the other hand, has argued that State law may be preempted by federal laws and regulations. They have suggested a “marketplace success” model to address build-out concerns.

Generally this means that as CenturyLink gains subscribers, its obligation to build out will increase. 

The City of Minneapolis was the first LFA in Minnesota to grapple with these issues.  After careful consideration of the build-out issue, and other questions related to the incumbent cable franchise held by Comcast, the Minneapolis City Council granted a franchise to CenturyLink. Here's a link to a summary of the franchise.  As a result, CenturyLink has begun offering its Prism service in portions of Minneapolis.

Some of the policy questions regarding competitive cable franchising are new to LFA elected officials.  It is not as simple as one may think to grant a second cable franchise.  Consider the following:
  • Is competition in a portion of a community, but potentially not the entire community, better than no completion at all? 
  • How are institutional networks addressed? 
  • What about PEG issues? (i.e. channels (HD/SD), interconnections, channel location, technical quality, financial support, live originations) 
  • How does each LFA address compliance with State law? 
  • What reaction can the LFAs expect from the incumbent cable operator? 
LFAs remain motivated by a desire to place the interests of the residential cable subscribers first, while at the same time securing a commitment to maintain the essential local services cable operators have provided in Minnesota for more than 30 years.  Each LFA must make the decision that they feel is right for their community.

Thankfully, MACTA’s members are well represented by some of the finest attorneys who represent local government on cable franchising matters.  How each LFA eventually addresses whether to grant CenturyLink a competitive cable franchise, and how the second franchise is structured, is still a local matter.  No different than each LFA’s current franchise.

 

 

 

June 2015 | Mike Reardon

The MACTA Board of Directors is in the process of soliciting proposals for a new Association Management Services (AMS) firm. 

 

You may or may not be aware that MACTA has retained the service of an AMS since the 1990s.  As MACTA continued to grow in the 80s and 90s, the board at the time realized it would need to hire a firm specializing in the management of small non-profits (such as MACTA). There was just too much “day-to-day” MACTA work for volunteer board members to do on their own, and to continue functioning at the high level expected by members.  

An AMS is a very common solution for non-profits who cannot directly hire a full-time executive director. These firms provide full office management of the organization while allowing the board of directors (who in MACTA’s case are employed full-time with cities/cable commissions) to focus their attention on their “day jobs.” This also allows board members to continue to volunteer their time to help lead the non-profit. This relationship has continued to work very well over the past two decades. 

During the last contract negotiation with Ewald & Associates (MACTA’s current and long-time AMS) in 2013, the board realized it would be very prudent to take a look at what exactly MACTA is and should be requiring of its AMS. Since our organization had not requested updated quotes from other companies for a number of years, the board decided 2015 would be a good time to solicit a Request for Proposals (RFP). This led to the board assessing the types of services MACTA provides to its members, which helped shape the scope of services it would seek through the RFP process. 

The RFP was recently approved by the board, and will be sent to a list of potential applicants.  Recently, in a very cordial but candid discussion between myself and Bill Monn from Ewald, we mutually agreed MACTA’s scope of services would probably be best served by a smaller AMS.  (Ewald has substantially grown over the years, becoming an international AMS, and MACTA might be its smallest client.)  So, while Ewald will not be responding to our RFP, they have assured the board they will assist us in the transition to a new AMS, helping to make it as smooth a move as possible.

The RFP will be “hitting the streets” sometime this week. It is the goal of the board to have the new AMS firm selected by September, with the new company ready to take over as MACTA’s AMS on January 1.  

Please be assured the board is confident there are numerous AMS firms within the Twin Cities market that are very qualified to serve as MACTA’s next office management company. There will be no reduction of services, or quality, to our members. If you are aware of an AMS firm that should receive an RFP, please email me at info@mactamn.org, and I will make sure they receive the RFP.  

 

 

May 2015 | Mike Reardon

In the end, the Comcast transfers of ownership, were much to do about nothing … or were they? 

 

As you all know, in February 2014, Comcast announced its intentions to merge with TimeWarner Cable. A month or so later, we learned that Comcast intended to “spin off” its franchise holdings in Minnesota to a company at that time called SpinCoSpinCo went through a couple of renaming cycles, and eventually came out as GreatLand Connections. (For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to all of these actions as “transactions.”) 

But, as you also know, last month, Comcast pulled the plug (I have to be careful not to say “cut the cord” …) on the transactions. Minnesota local franchise authorities (LFAs) spent a considerable amount of time, energy and money carefully reviewing Comcast’s transaction and, in some cases, the TimeWarner merger -- and how it all might impact communities served by Charter Communications.

So, now that the dust has settled, where does this leave us? Well, for the time being (and I stress “for the time being,” as consolidation in the cable/telecom industries is far from over) we still have the same companies in our communities.

However, for a lot of MACTA members served by Comcast, the transactions provided a great opportunity to get Comcast to the table to either negotiate a new franchise or extend the current one. It can be assumed if Comcast was not under the pressure to obtain the LFA’s transaction approvals in order to close the deal in Washington, most of the Comcast’s LFAs would likely still be facing a long and laborious renewal process.  So, while the transactions process -- heaped on top of many LFAs already arduous renewal process -- created extra stress, in the end, it was perhaps worth it. Now, bring on CenturyLink!

Speaking of CenturyLink, the company will join Comcast and Charter to provide overviews of where their companies are headed during MACTA’s 31st Annual Conference on June 16. It will be a great opportunity to learn what new services, products, and possible expansion prospects each will be, or might be, considering. This session will be just the start of a great day of eight concurrent sessions, NATOA’s executive director’s keynote address, great exhibits and a chance to network with your peers. More information on the conference is provided in the e-Brief. I hope to see you there!

 

 

April 2015 | Mike Reardon

Office of Broadband Development, Border-to-Border Grant Nearly Hit Roadblock in House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee Budget

 

Mark Twain once said something along the lines of, “No one is safe when Congress is in session.” That was certainly the case recently as it relates to the funding of broadband initiatives in Minnesota.

Over the past several years, the State has provided funding to create the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development (OBD). Last year, legislators provided $20 million to jumpstart the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program, which is intended to expand broadband services to unserved and underserved regions in Minnesota.  In the first-year, $19.4 million in grant funding was awarded.

In total, the grant funded 17 projects, bringing high-speed Internet to nearly 6,100 homes, 83 community institutions and hundreds of businesses statewide.

Following this momentous achievement, Gov. Dayton proposed increasing the grant program’s funding in 2015 to $30 million. Bills were introduced in the House and Senate, ranging from $50 million to $100 million.  It seemed like broadband was finally on our State leaders’ radars!

But, this momentum nearly came to a halt when the House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee eliminated funding for both the grant program and for OBD.

MACTA, along with the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota High Tech Association, among others, quickly responded to this possible elimination of funding.  Whether our actions – which included a hand-delivered letter from the MACTA Board of Directors to the Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Budget Committee members – had a direct impact is not certain. However, what is certain is the Senate committee restored funding for the OBD and recommended an appropriation of $17 million for another round of the broadband grants. The House Ways and Means committee also added $8 million for the Border-to-Border Grants, and restored the OBD in their bill.

The funding disparities between the House and Senate bills still need to be worked out, and MACTA will continue to closely monitor this situation as it moves forward.

To stay updated on this issue, as well as a dozen other pieces of legislation that are being debated this session, (which relate in some manner to cable, broadband and telecom policies), you are encouraged to check out MACTA’s weekly  “2015 Regular Session Bills Tracker,” posted each Friday afternoon in the “Legislative Monitoring” section of our website.   Note, the “Legislative Monitoring” section is only available to Members, so you will need to log in to the “Members Only” section of our site.

 

 

March 2015 | Mike Reardon

MACTA Has Influence on State Legislation

 

If anyone wonders if MACTA actually has an influence on legislative policy, that answer is YES!

For those that are unaware, currently, a State bill (HF776/SF895) is attempting to deregulate voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service. The intent is to only affect State Chapter 237 (telecommunications).

However, MACTA learned that the bill’s initial definition of VoIP included voice, data AND video. Even though MACTA was assured the bill would not deregulate or affect in any manner State Chapter 238 (cable franchising), the proposed bill nevertheless had the potential to create a slippery slope.

Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska), Chair of the Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee, informed those attending MACTA’s recent “Day at the Capitol” event, that the “MACTA amendment” was added to the bill to specifically address this concern.

The language, proposed by MACTA, states,“video services provided by a cable communications system, as defined in Section 238 … or cable service as defined in [US code] … or any other IP-enabled video service” would not be regulated under this chapter.

While this bill, also referred to as the AT&T –VoIP/IP Bill, may not go anywhere this year, the action to accept a MACTA  amendment demonstrates the respect MACTA has garnered by our legislators. When a bill related to our concerns is being debated – the legislators are willing to listen to us!

The AT&T –VoIP Bill is one of only a half-dozen or so pieces of legislation that have been introduced during this session that in some manner touch upon MACTA’s area of interest. Thankfully, it appears none of the bills has any adverse effect on our membership.

Thanks go out to the good work being done by MACTA’s lobbyists, Sarah Psick and Joe Bagnoli, (McGrann & Shea). Because of them, MACTA is able to stay on top of what is happening on the “hill” in Saint Paul and, when necessary, offer amendments.

Please note, each Friday throughout the session, Joe and Sarah provide their weekly “Capitol Update Report” to MACTA members. The updates provide an overview of general key legislative activities during the past week.  In addition, they also track those bills that have a hint of cable, telecom or broadband connected to them. Both the “Updates” and “Session Tracker” can be accessed by logging in to the Members Only section of MACTA’s website.

And finally, don’t forget that MACTA’s Annual Conference on Tuesday, June 16 (note date change) will hold its regular regulatory review session as part of the conference.

 

 

February 2015 | Mike Reardon

MACTA offers two great learning opportunities during the first half of this year.

 

First, if you have not yet registered for MACTA’s Day at the Capitol workshop on March 2, I’d encourage you to do so now! During this annual event, morning sessions provide an opportunity for our State Legislators to give up-to-date information on what the Minnesota Legislature is considering this session – especially as it may affect MACTA members. There will also be an update from the State’s Office of Broadband Development. 

The afternoon then provides a great opportunity to schedule individual visits with your legislator(s). Many of our members often bring their cameras to record segments for their cable channels!  MACTA will be providing key talking points and, if requested, assist you in meeting with your legislators.  

To register for the conference, click here.

Then, on June 17, MACTA will hold its Annual Conference. Based on the positive response we received from holding the conference in June last year, the board has decided to go that route again. BUT, this year, we are at a new location that we think everyone will find better suites our organization’s needs.

The all-day event will be held at the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the University of Minnesota Saint Paul campus.  While most of the details are still being worked out, you can be assured it will cover timely topics that affect your job on a daily basis.  As a MACTA member, you will receive substantially reduced registration rates from non-members.

Speaking of membership – if you plan to attend the March 2 ‘Day at the Capitol,’ please renew your membership by Feb. 28! Memberships expire March 1 – and if you haven’t renewed – you will have to pay a non-membership rate to attend.  …And, I wouldn’t want that to happen. Click here to renew your membership now.

I look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events!

 

 

January 2015 | Mike Reardon

In hindsight, 2014 was likely one of the busiest years for many MACTA members.

 

Just think, a year ago right now, a lot of us were either directly involved with franchise renewals, or preparing for one. Many of us are STILL working on them! This in itself can be daunting, but it was only the beginning of 2014.

In February, Comcast announced it was merging with Time Warner. Soon after, the news followed that Comcast would “spin” off its Twin Cities franchises to Spin Co… Who? Well, as we all know, a year later, we are still working on resolving Comcast’s transaction to Spin Co, err… I mean Midwest Cable….  No wait, make that GreatLand Connections. Of course, there are still major hurdles to jump in Washington D.C. before the Twin Cities market is home to GreatLand Connections.

For those who don’t know, MACTA submitted two separate filings to the FCC last year, outlining conditions we hope the agency will consider should it approve the Comcast/GreatLand Connections transaction. We also coordinated a financial analysis of the transaction on behalf of a dozen members.

This wasn’t the only big announcement that took place last year. Rumored for some time, CenturyLink finally announced it intended to enter the cable/video market in Minnesota. What this meant to the local franchise authorities (LFAs), and thus the public, wasn’t certain at the time. However, it should become much clearer as CenturyLink is finally... officially… approaching LFAs with proposed cable franchises. More on this as the first quarter of this year transpires!

Bottom line, if you felt like you were busy last year… you probably were! You probably will continue to be busy this year. Just remember, throughout it all, MACTA will continue to be a resource for its members. Please look to us for help! Oh, and also, please plan on attending both our “Day at the Capitol” event on March 2, and our Annual Conference on June 17.

 

 

December 2014 | Mike Reardon

Receiving the NATOA President Award for Chapter Excellence was just one of many accomplishments that capped off a very good year for MACTA. At its December planning retreat, the board of directors reviewed all of the organization’s 2014 highlights. 

 

NATOA Recognition


Based on my conversations with NATOA President Tony Perez  (who had the presidential responsibility to select the NATOA state chapter to receive the 2014 award) there were MULTIPLE reasons why MACTA was chosen as the 2014 NATOA President Award for Chapter Excellence.  

 

The efforts put forth by MACTA members to ensure a successful NATOA Annual Conference perhaps topped the list of reasons. To show their appreciation, the NATOA board of directors even called the MACTA board during our recent retreat – just to thank us for helping put on what they referred to as “NATOA’s most successful conference in quite a few years - in terms of both attendance and revenue.”  However, the NATOA conference was only one of the many reasons, as our 2014 accomplishments can attest.

 

MACTA Annual Conference/Day at the Capitol


MACTA held its own annual conference in June, so as to not conflict with NATOA's fall conference in Saint Paul. Based on reviews and attendance, it appears to have been a very successful event. Because of the success of a late spring/early summer conference, the Board has decided to again hold our annual conference during that timeframe in 2015.  The actual date and location are still being determined, but expect an announcement soon.

Additionally, our annual Day at the Capitol event in February was again a success – and we plan to hold it again in 2015 (even if the Capitol grounds may be a little “torn up” for construction!)

 

Other Accomplishments

Other noteworthy accomplishments include:

  • Authoring T
Association Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal