King County says no to public, yes to Comcast


On Monday Dec. 13, the King County Council voted 9-3 to extend the county's cable franchise agreement with Comcast for five years, under terms extremely favorable to the company. The proposal, quietly announced days earlier, came as a surprise to community media and technology activists who had urged the Council last winter to delay extending Comcast's lucrative franchise in order to develop a proposal which better addresses the public's needs. Some concerns were expressed in an open letter signed last spring by over 250 local citizens representing community groups, unions, small businesses, public technology experts and community media supporters.

The franchise extension not only ignores all citizen recommendations, it actually represents steps backward from the County's current agreement with Comcast. The proposal dramatically withdraws support from community access and government television, and from the institutional broadband network linking County schools, libraries and public services. It institutionalizes Comcast's refusal to allow small local ISPs open access to its network, and voluntarily gives up some $21 million worth of unused public bandwidth in exchange for a paltry one-time payoff of $1.2 million.

Read our complete response.

[ Citizen petition to the County Council ]
[ First RTM op-ed (Dec. 03), Second RTM op-ed (Jan. 04) ]
[ Primer on local cable organizing (pdf) and links to more info

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King County says yes to Comcast, no to community media

Reclaim the Media STATEMENT on King County Council's Dec. 2004 proposal to extend its cable franchise agreement with Comcast

Reversing course from stated goals and rhetoric, the King County Council has capitulated to the wishes of the Comcast Corporation in a new agreement to extend Comcast's

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Connecting for Change: Oct 28-30, Seattle


The Northwest Regional chapter of the Alliance for Community Media holds its annual conference in Seattle this month. The theme is Connecting for Change; one programming track focuses on helping connect nonprofit media makers and administrators with the arts organizations, community technology centers and activist groups in their communities. Conference events also include tours of local government, educational and public access cable facilities and a brainstorming session on new community media initiatives.

[ Schedule and Registration info: web/pdf ]

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Reclaim the Media TV


Seattle and King County cable subscribers: tune into SCAN-TV every Thursday at 11pm for our new media watch program, Reclaim the Media TV. Each week host Daniel Hannah brings together critical analysis of the week's news as reported in the corporate media, status reports on significant media policy debates, and community perspectives on media literacy and independent media. SCAN is Seattle's public access cable provider (on channel 77 or 29). The station's broadcast schedule includes a variety of locally-produced cultural and public affairs shows worth watching, plus programs from Free Speech TV, and Seattle's only live broadcast of Democracy Now (5am weekdays).

Read more.

Seattle City Council explores Municipal Broadband

The city of Seattle may rethink its decade-old decision to stay out of the Internet business.

Under a resolution introduced yesterday by City Councilman Jim Compton, Seattle would explore becoming an Internet wholesaler by tapping into unused resources and applying new technologies, including wireless systems.

Read more. Peter Lewis, Seattle Times (Peter Lewis/Seattle Times)

Seattle Prepares for Comcast Negotiations


The Seattle City Council and its Office of Cable Communications have begun seeking public input on the city's franchise contract with cable provider Comcast. The agreement, which gives the company monopoly access to most of the local cable market, is up for renewal and will be renegotiated over the next year and a half.

Local cable franchise negotiations are designed by law to be adversarial, recognizing that the cable provider is a private business whose primary aim is growing profits for its shareholders. In turn, it falls to local government negotiators to push for strong public benefits to be included in the franchise agreement--benefits such as funding for public access TV, broadband networks for schools, libraries and public safety services, and so forth. The City can also negotiate to hold Comcast accountable to customer's rights and labor protections for local employees. However, all these things depend on the City entering negotiations with the will to fight for the public's rights--not to seek "cooperation" with one of the country's most ruthless and powerful communications firms. Click here for more information about Comcast and local franchise agreements. Then fill out the city's Cable Internet Survey or send your comments directly to Councilmember Jim Compton.

[ Comcast Watch ]
[ CWA complaint against Comcast ]
[ Center for Digital Democracy on Comcast ]

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County Council Delays Comcast Decision


Responding to citizen concerns about ISP peering agreements, public access television and broken promises from cable provider Comcast, King County Councilmember Dow Constantine announced Friday that the Council would postpone an expected decision on a proposed deal to extend Comcast's franchise. The delay gives critics of the measure more time to organize opposition among media activists, labor unions, political groups and others. Reclaim the Media has circulated an open letter to the Council, proposing a different path ahead for regional cable policy. Read our letter and sign on!

Read more.

Comcast: 'We're rolling in cash'

[from PR Newswire}
Comcast Corporation Expects $2 Billion in Free Cash Flow in 2004, Previews Operating Cash Flow Guidance

Board of Directors Approves $1 Billion Share Repurchase Program

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) today announced

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County to rethink Comcast deal: Is the council charging enough?

by Peter Lewis, Seattle Times

King County is re-examining terms of a proposed five-year contract with Comcast for cable TV and broadband service in light of news that it might be dramatically undervaluing rights to 17 channels it would return to the cable giant.

At stake in the negotiations are

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King County Considers Comcast Franchise Extension


Responding to increasing public opposition, the King County Council has decided to delay deciding the fate of a proposal to extend the County's cable franchise agreement with Comcast through the year 2010. The existing agreement, which specifies the cable provider's obligations to the County in return for monopoly access to its customer base, is scheduled to expire in Feb. 2005. Extending the contract would mean an immediate cash windfall ($1.2 million) for the County government, but that amounts to
chump change
, considering what Comcast would get in return. The proposal calls for giving up two of the County's current, needed public-use cable channels, as well as give up the potential to operate up to 15 additional digital channels. In addition, the proposed deal would ignore the cable company's abysmal record of noncompliance with the terms of its contract with the County to date.

If you're a King County cable subscriber, this proceeding is your chance to speak your mind. Sign RTM's letter to the Council or contact Councilmembers directly, and tell them not to trade away your technology access for a handful of beans. Hold Comcast accountable, and don't extend the franchise without getting a better deal!

[RTM analysis of the extension proposal]
[ Full text of the proposal (doc) ]
[ proposed changes to Comcast/King County franchise (doc) ]
[ Seattle, June 02 Testimony against Comcast ]
[ A good example: San Jose's Ascertainment ]
[ How is Comcast doing in your community? ]

Read more.
The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey