As The Times Argus rightly noted in a recent editorial, the FCC effort to undermine the cable access provisions in the local cable franchise agreements is dangerous and uncalled for. It is another example of federal overreach in what should remain a local concern. And, yes, if this provision is enacted, it could remove $30 million in direct benefits to Vermont's cities and towns.
I perhaps have a deeper view on this from an earlier career in cable television development. I worked on crafting the original access agreements in the city of Boston's cable franchise back in 1980. The provision was a completely voluntary offering from the cable companies separate from the assumed city franchise fee. It was the same all over the country. The same voluntary provisions were entered into in Vermont.
Out of these agreements came such notable organizations as ORCA in Montpelier, which provides video coverage of endless city meetings, debates on local issues and previews of local arts and culture. All of this is included in everyone's cable bills, so it is not the pure giveaway the cable companies claim.
In these interesting economic and technological times, such services are a key benefit to our cities and must be protected. Our elected leaders must hear of citizen and city concerns on this dangerous ploy by the cable operators. It is yet another place where the tools of our democracy are being attacked by the forces of corporate greed.