How is PEG Access administered and by whom?
Beginning quietly in 2009, but becoming full-blown in 2012, events have been unfolding that have challenged the way cable television has traditionally been regulated with regard to PEG Access.
Vermont Public Service Board Rule 8.400 requires cable television companies, with certain exceptions, to provide a public benefit in the form of Public, Educational and Governmental Access, administered regionally around the state by Access Management Organizations (AMOs).
A relatively new development in Vermont, although not unique among many other parts of the country, is the building of one telecom provider over another established, or incumbent, provider. The first of these was Burlington Telecom, which with its residential and enterprise fiber-to-the-premises television, Internet and telephone services competes with Comcast, Fairpoint and commercial broadband providers.
The second overbuilder, a telephone CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) to add Internet and cable TV services to its telephone service in towns certificated to a traditional cable operator (Charter), was Topsham Telephone in 2009 for Corinth, Topsham, Orange, Washington, Newbury and Vershire. As Topsham Communications, LLC, the company was also certificated to provide cable television service to the Towns of Bradford, Fairlee and West Fairlee. Although its CPG holds the company to the PEG access provisions of Rule 8.400, Topsham Communications has not yet done so.
The third and latest overbuilder—again a CLEC—is Vermont Telephone (VTel), which in 2012 received a CPG to add cable television service as it upgrades its copper to an all-fiber optic system in a number of central Vermont towns from its hubs in Springfield, Hartland and Mount Holly. These three hubs will service subscribers in 22 towns, twelve of which fall partially or fully into service territories of six existing AMOs previously designated by Comcast.
These overbuilds and partial town coverages are raising issues of funding, delivery of services, distribution of programming and other PEG access responsibilities of cable operators and AMOs. Most have not been sorted out and may require further amendment of PSB Rule 8.400.
To read more about the history of PEG Access and how Vermont requires cable operators to deliver this public benefit, see Regulation & History.
Is the ascendancy of Internet use threatening PEG Access?
The majority of the funding that sustains our nonprofit AMOs is indexed by the State of Vermont to telecom providers’ cable television revenues, and not Internet revenues. Because cable TV revenues are flat and may be falling because of subscribers shifting their telecom dollars over to broadband Internet service, our PEG Access Management Organizations (AMOs) are being challenged to find ways to increase revenues in the face of increasing popularity and demand for their services.
This phenomenon was written about in Burlington’s free weekly paper, SevenDays.