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Make sure Maui gets what it deserves from its cable system

By Staff | Oct 17, 2013

LAHAINA – Attention West Maui community: make your demands heard. Please come out and testify next Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the West Maui Senior Center starting at 4:30 p.m.

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) will hold public hearings across Maui County on the consolidated application for renewal for the Maui County and Lahaina cable television franchises submitted by Oceanic Time Warner Cable LLC.

The minimum ten requirements the state must require Oceanic Time Warner Cable to provide Akaku and Maui County in exchange for use of Maui public rights- of-way during the franchise term are as follows:

1) Cablecast Akaku channels with the same format and signal quality as local broadcast channels, including HD, and make them available on multiple tiers.

2) Maintain channel ID numbers and locations as agreed to by Akaku.

3) Increase funding and capital support to Akaku with no restrictions on funds for Internet and new media use.

4) Provide Maui County all public benefits Time Warner provides to any other franchise in the nation.

5) Honor contract with DCCA and Akaku regardless of changes in federal or state law.

6) Provide Akaku viewers with 25 hours of video on demand.

7) Dedicate 10 percent of all bandwidth for public benefit use.

8) Provide fast, affordable Internet for all.

9) Meet the governor’s goal of symmetrical gigabit Internet by 2018.

10) Free WiFi in public parks and designated areas.

As some of you may know, over the past year, the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has been engaged in the process of reviewing Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s (OTWC) application for a 20-year renewal of its cable franchise agreement.

The cable franchise agreement itself outlines the specifications that OTWC must follow in the operation of our cable system.

The grant of cable franchise gives the recipient a right-to-use and occupy public places, highways and easements. This “right-to-use” is a privilege offered to OTWC on behalf of Maui’s citizens that allows the company to reap substantial economic benefit, as can been seen by the $65 million in 2011 and $68 million in 2012 collected from Maui County subscribers.

However, this privilege carries with it obligations that OTWC must fulfill. One obligation is the payment of franchise fees and capital funds in return for use of the public right-of-ways. Essentially, OTWC needs to pay rent for using our public property. We want to make sure OTWC is paying its fair share in return for the privilege to operate its 97 percent profit-yielding business.

Perhaps the most important use of the franchise fees goes toward providing Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) access programming. The need for PEG programming has been recognized by the federal government through the adoption of laws that require PEG programming on most all U.S. cable systems. However, the importance of PEG programming is often undermined, as funding sources are constantly under attack by many agencies, both governmental and non-governmental.

Here on Maui, our dedicated PEG provider is Akaku: Maui Community Television. It is the mission of Akaku to empower the community’s voice through access to media, and they have been successfully doing so for approximately 20 years. The services provided by Akaku are supported solely through these franchise fees. Akaku has experienced the vulnerability of these franchise fees and has a great appreciation for the importance of these cable franchise proceedings.

As a certified community producer and as a volunteer board member, I’ve had the opportunity to learn first-hand about how Akaku operates and the services they provide. I believe Akaku has done exemplary work fulfilling their mission and representing the public’s best interest in regards to our cable and Internet needs.

“Maui no ka ‘oi.” Maui is the best, and we the people deserve the best. Support the efforts of Akaku by making your demands heard and participating in the upcoming community meetings to ensure Maui gets what it deserves out of our cable system.

For more information about the cable franchise renewal process and the cable and Internet needs of Maui County, please visit Akaku.org or contact my office at (808) 270-5504 or elle.cochran @mauicounty.us.