PO Box 87
Newtown, CT 06470
November 11, 2003 Minutes
CABLE ADVISORY COUNCIL
P. O. Box 87
Public Regular Meeting – Tuesday, November 11, 2003
There was a regular meeting of the Cable Advisory Council called to order at 7:49 p.m., Tuesday, November 11, 2003 by Chairperson, John Sabo at the Charter Communications facility, Newtown, Connecticut.
John Bell (Kent), Jill Zaloski (Monroe), Carmella Amodeo (Newtown), William Fredrickson (Southbury), Stephanie O’Rourke (Kent), Rachel Goodkind (New Milford), Carrie Ziegler (New Milford), and John Sabo (Southbury), Chairperson.
For Charter: Dick Elwell.
No public present.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
J. Sabo reminded the Council of their official website address (www.cableadvisorycouncil.com, .net, .org) and said that the Council’s Minutes are posted there on a regular basis. A motion was made by W. Fredrickson to accept the Minutes of the September 9, 2003 meeting as submitted, the motion was seconded by J. Zaloski. There being no discussion, a vote was taken and the Minutes of the September 9, 2003 meeting were approved. The motion carried unanimously.
J. Zaloski, Treasurer, presented her report to the council (September—November 11, 2003).
Opening balance of the checking account. . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 756.01
1 yr. plus CD @ $10,000 (New Maturity Date 8/27/04)
A motion was made by J. Bell to accept the treasurer’s report as submitted. The motion was seconded by W. Fredrickson and carried unanimously.
S. O’Rourke made an inquiry as to how funds are acquired for the Council. J. Zaloski explained that Charter Communications contributes an annual amount of $2,000 which has accumulated over the years. The Council’s operating expenses are paid from the Council’s account. She pointed out that the Council has been attempting to find ways to utilize the funds for the benefit of the community (i.e., award programs for video equipment for schools).
COMMUNICATIONS AND CORRESPONDENCE:
J. Sabo advised the Council that J. Zaloski has agreed to pick up the mail from the PO Box as she travels through Newtown on a more regular basis than he has been able to manage. The Council has, in the past, expressed concern with the mail not being addressed on a more timely basis. There have been customer payments that have been inadvertently sent to the PO Box which were intended for Charter but have not addressed until the Council’s meeting. This has caused Charter’s customers to incur late fees. J. Zaloski will review the mail as it is picked up. J. Sabo pointed out the need for a correspondence secretary.
J. Sabo reviewed the correspondence received at the Council’s PO Box and then submitted same to the Recording Secretary for logging. It was agreed, that at the end of each meeting, the Recording Secretary and D. Elwell would update the log to reflect the actions taken with regard to the correspondence received by the Council.
Changes to By-Laws – Attendance: J. Sabo pointed out an ongoing concern of the Council: What constitutes a quorum? Due to low attendance at each meeting, it has been difficult to conduct the business at hand. J. Zaloski reminded the Council of the consolidation of the western and northwestern franchise areas and pointed out the additional difficulty in attaining a quorum for each meeting. W. Fredrickson suggested selecting an arbitrary quorum of five members. W. Fredrickson made a motion that a quorum shall be defined as five (5) members representing at least three (3) different towns. The motion was seconded by J. Zaloski and carried 7-0-1 (ABSTAIN: S. O’Rourke).
C. Ziegler asked if the Council has tried to contact members that have not regularly attended meetings. A brief discussion ensued whereby the Council explained what has transpired in the past in an attempt to address this issue.
Website Progress: J. Sabo said he is pleased with the website and pointed out the variety of information the site offers.
Consolidation of Western and Northwestern Franchise Areas: J. Sabo confirmed the transition taking place as well as the transfer of funds. He pointed out that regular telephone conferencing needed to be established. D. Elwell will look into the matter.
The discussion was interrupted by a brief discussion ensuing concerning conducting meetings on holidays. J. Zaloski made a motion that future meetings will not be held on legal holidays. The motion was seconded by C. Amodeo and carried unanimously.
J. Sabo updated the Council with regard to a show being aired in Winsted which may or may not have met community standards. The Council informally met to view the videotape provided to them which received numerous complaints. It was unanimously determined by the Council that the program did not violate any community standards.
Member Items and Issues:
R. Goodkind asked if there was a conflict if Council members had their own show. J. Sabo reminded the Council that the issue arose in past and it was decided there was no conflict of interest so long as the Council member recused themselves from voting on any issue involving that member’s show.
A discussion ensued regarding marketing of the Advisory Council to spark an interest in Council participation. J. Sabo felt that personal invitations needed to occur encouraging others to become involved with the Council. S. O’Rourke said that not many people know the Council exists. J. Sabo pointed out the various types of efforts that have been made by the Council to gain interest. He also suggested putting together a commercial.
J. Sabo informed the Council that he received a letter from Tom Joyner which he chose not to read at the meeting. Instead, he Emailed the letter to the members of the Council as well as the response from Charter. Essentially, the content of the letter dealt with Charter’s raising its rates and the effect such an action has had on him. Some members expressed not receiving the Email and J. Sabo indicated that he would look into having the correspondence posted on the Council’s website. J. Sabo explained to the Council that this issue is an ongoing concern but reminded the Council that they have limited input as to what the cable providers charge and these types of issues need to be directed to the DPUC and the cable providers. He pointed out an issue that has arisen time and time again — tiering. Customers desire more choices. The response has been that economically such an option is not possible. D. Elwell agreed and added that the contracts with programmers is a factor as well. The rate hikes that the cable providers receive from the programmers has to be passed along to the customers. They are not at liberty to provide tiers.
A brief recess was taken at this point.
J. Bell distributed a sample of a log sheet that he has utilized to keep track of the complaints he has received. He reported the various complaints he received to the Council and the actions that were taken to address them. He pointed out the inability of the customers to rectify their problems by contacting Charter directly. J. Bell said that Melissa Applegate, a customer service supervisor, was instrumental in dealing with the issues brought to her attention. C. Amodeo pointed out that the complaints brought to the attention of the Council are being dealt with, but questioned how complaints are being dealt with that are brought directly to Charter. She gave an example of a dilemma she was involved in and attempted to deal with it by going through the normal channels of communication with customer service as opposed to using her connections via the Council. The situation took four days to be addressed after numerous phone calls to customer service. She expressed a concern with customers’ needs not being addressed either in a timely fashion or addressed at all. D. Elwell explained that Charter has three calls centers. The first available representative will answer a call. There is a knowledge management system in an attempt to get everyone on the same billing system, similar services, digital packages, high speed modem packages, etc. The representatives are trained in a similar fashion to be able to handle whatever situation comes in and dispatch it accordingly. There has been a higher learning curve than anticipated. Charter has determined that the best course of action would be to try to get the calls back to the Connecticut representatives in-house to address. The Council expressed concerned with outsourcing to other states that are not familiar with the needs of individual towns. C. Amodeo pointed out difficulties she has had with the Network Operations Center which is also located outside of Connecticut. They were unable to access her billing records. She asked if the business segment of customer support would move back into the area. D. Elwell explained that the Network Operations Center (NOC) is the first level—they ensure the network is running. A network engineer and local service technician has remained in Connecticut. The Charter Business Network is a separate entity which has its own customer service area. He would look into having a specific phone number publicized to make contacting them easier. The overall consensus was that customer service needed to be improved. In particular, the call waiting time.
J. Sabo attempted to open nominations up for Office of Membership Chairperson and voting for Vice Chairperson but J. Zaloski expressed concern with doing so at the meeting as three new members were present for the first time. She asked that the item be addressed at the Council’s next meeting in January. J. Sabo urged the matter be addressed so the positions could be filled. He briefly explained the responsibilities for each position. C. Ziegler expressed an interest in being considered for Office of Membership Chairperson but asked that she be given more information regarding the responsibilities. J. Sabo gave a brief explanation. J. Sabo asked C. Amodeo if she would consider the office of Vice Chairperson. Prior to responding, C. Amodeo asked J. Bell if he would reconsider accepting the position. J. Bell was not interested. J. Sabo pointed out the importance of members more actively participating in the Council’s responsibilities and not just attending the meetings. A motion was made by W. Fredrickson electing Carmella Amodeo Vice Chairperson. The motion was seconded by J. Bell and carried unanimously.
J. Sabo opened up nominations for the Office of Membership Chairperson. J. Zaloski nominated C. Ziegler and J. Bell seconded the nomination. R. Goodkind offered her services to assist the Membership Chairperson. The nomination carried unanimously. This item will be voted on at the next regular meeting.
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS REPORT:
D. Elwell advised the Council that FX is coming into the lineup in February 2004. He explained that it is a station that the customers have been requesting for quite some time. In addition, the high speed network is now going to offer two speeds: 2 meg and a 384. The costs: $29.95 and $39.95. Some line up changes are being explored as is network consolidation (i.e., UPN network and PAX network). He distributed the most recent Community Vision 21 Newsletter and public access report.
A motion was made by W. Fredrickson to adjourn the meeting at 9:53 p.m. The motion was seconded by J. Zaloski and carried unanimously.
Respectfully submitted by: Amy Holding, Recording Secretary
NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 at Charter Communications offices in Newtown, 7:30 p.m.
Cable Advisory Council