California PUC Hearings – We Need Your Help!

Residents, PEG Station Employees, Government Staff, Supporters… we need your voice!

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is holding public participation hearings in August and September 2024, to hear from communities about the performance of cable companies like Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Cox, and others. A 2022 state law, known as SB 28, asked the agency to update the licensing of cable companies, a process known as franchising, and to adopt customer service standards. This is the first time cable franchising has been reviewed in more than fifteen years in California. It is an exciting opportunity to fight for community media, digital equity and consumer protections.

1. What is the CPUC?
2. What to expect at the public hearings
3. When and Where
4. Preparation Workshops
5. Talking Points
6. Help Spread the Word
7. Background

WHAT IS THE CPUC?

The CA Public Utilities Commission is a state agency that regulates utility services, including telecommunications. The agency has five commissioners appointed by the governor and a public advocates division. The agency creates rules for industries it oversees. This rule-making process is number R.23-04-006. Rule-making is overseen by a judge, called an administrative law judge, and one presiding commissioner who do research, take evidence, accept comments and issue a preliminary decision for the full commission to vote on. Most comments come from official stakeholders, known as parties, but sometimes the commission wants to get broad general input and then they schedule one or more public hearings. The Alliance for Community Media (ACM), The Alliance for Communications Democracy, and Media Alliance are parties to this proceeding. The public hearings are a way to show the judge that the asks ACM, ACD, and Media Alliance are making have lots of support and represent what the community wants. The talking points listed below can help you to lift up some of our advocacy arguments in your public comment.

WHAT TO EXPECT?

The public hearing will be presided over by the administrative law judge. Your comments will be recorded and transcribed and that transcript will be part of the public record. There will be a brief introduction and then the public comments will begin. There is usually an in-person option and a hybrid or online portion. If you are attending in person, you will register to speak. It is usually necessary to arrive at the beginning of the hearing time in order to register. Then you wait until your name is called and then proceed to the microphone. You will be asked to provide your first and last name, and the name of any organization you are representing or affiliated with, if any, and probably to spell your first and last name for the court reporter. The standard time to speak is two minutes, but the judge can make that shorter or longer depending on the number of people who want to speak. If you are participating virtually, you will call the telephone number at the beginning of the hearing time where they will take your name and then wait until they tell you to go ahead and comment. Be patient as the wait can take a while.

It is important to understand that cable companies will mobilize folks, often nonprofits, to support their arguments that no new customer service standards are needed and that they are providing fabulous service. Do not feel discouraged or confused by such testimony. The commission is eager to hear from people who are not funded by the cable companies. Your presence is important as a counter to such testimony. If you aren’t there, that is all they will hear!

WHEN AND WHERE

There are two dates for live and in-person hearings where you can interact with the judge in real life.

On August 14th – there are two hearings in Sacramento

Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Chambers
700 H Street, Room 1450
Sacramento CA 95814
Afternoon hearing: 1pm to 3pm
Evening hearing: 5pm to 7pm

On September 5th – there are two hearings in Monterey Park

Monterey Park City Council Chambers
320 West Newmark Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Afternoon hearing: 1pm to 3pm
Evening hearing: 5pm to 7pm

There is one date for virtual public hearings where you can provide comments via telephone.

On September 19 – there are two virtual hearings
Telephone Call-In #  1800-857-1917   Passcode: 6032788

Afternoon hearing: 1pm to 3pm
Evening hearing: 5pm to 7pm

PREPARTION WORKSHOPS

ACM West will have brief Zoom workshops to help you prepare for the public hearings. Workshops will cover how the process works, what to expect and tips and tricks for making the most of your two minutes. Register now on Zoom.

August 7th – 10:00 AM – Morning workshop
August 7th – 7:00 PM – Evening workshop

September 12 – 10:00 AM – Morning workshop
September 12 – 7:00 PM – Evening workshop

TALKING POINTS

We are providing a few talking points to help you put together your comment. Please feel free to mix and match as you feel comfortable, but if you can mention one or more of these points, it will help to align your testimony with the written comments ACM, ACD, and Media Alliance are submitting on behalf of California’s community media centers. If you have examples from your community that amplify any of these talking points feel free to provide that information.

  • Statewide cable franchising (DIVCA) was enacted almost 20 years ago. Since its passage, there have been major changes to the technology and services provided by the cable companies as state video franchisees.
  • Ensuring customer’s ability to access PEG access channels is essential to customer service requirements and the modernization of DIVCA. Despite the vital role of these channels, customers are often provided inferior access to them.
  • One of the problems faced by California consumers is that state franchisees transmit PEG channels and programming via outdated standard definition resolution, even though most PEG providers deliver programming in high definition resolution.
  • All channels including PEG channels should be delivered to subscribers in the same format as they are transmitted. A video service provider should not downgrade the channel signal quality.
  • Many video franchisees have not been providing program scheduling information in the electronic programming guides. By doing so, customers are deprived of their ability to locate, view, record, and otherwise take advantage of services they are paying for.
  • Some video franchisees are charging PEG entities (e.g. community media centers, cities, and education institutions) to transmit programming such as city council and school board and other community information to California consumers. This is a clear violation of DIVCA.
  • PEG channels play a crucial role in government transparency efforts by covering local government meetings and proceedings. They are vital sources of local news and civic engagement and played a critical role in the COVID pandemic by delivering hyper-local government, public health, public safety and educational information.
  • The deliberately substandard treatment of PEG channels represents serious harm to California customers. The Commission should address it as part of the customer service requirements it adopts under SB 28.

HELP SPREAD THE WORD IN YOUR COMMUNITY

We need residents, PEG station staff, government staff, partners and supporters to attend these hearings and have their voices be heard in support of community media. You can help by running our PSA video on your local channel, posting about the hearings on your social media, websites, and newsletters. If you’re running the PSA on a local channel, please email the ACM national office – we want to know!

Example Text #1: Want to help [your local community media center]? We need our friends to tell the CPUC to hold cablecos responsible for keeping community media thriving. Find out how to help at an upcoming public hearing here: acmwest.org/cpuc

Example Text #2: Want to help [your local community media center]? We need our friends to tell the CPUC to hold cable companies responsible for keeping community media thriving for media access, job training and coverage of local news and events. Find out how to help at an upcoming public hearing here: acmwest.org/cpuc

PSA Video Download Links:

ACM-produced PSA Video (horizontal): 1920×1080 16:9 MP4 Video

ACM-produced PSA Video (vertical): 1080×1920 9:16 MP4 Video

CPUC-produced PSA Video (horizontal): 1920×1080 16:9 MP4 Video

CPUC-produced PSA Video (vertical): 1080×1920 9:16 MP4 Video

Graphics:

BACKGROUND

If you are interested, here are some links for more information on how we got here.

Senate Bill 28 – The law that made this proceeding happen. leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SB28

CPUC Proceeding Record – R.23-04-006
apps.cpuc.ca.gov/apex/f?p=401:56::::RP,57,RIR:P5_PROCEEDING_SELECT:R2304006

CPUC Outreach Video for this Proceeding
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz7N5uaAFSM

CPUC Video Franchising Information
www.cpuc.ca.gov/regulatory-services/licensing/video-franchising

Why Statewide Video Franchising Hurts Communities
communitynets.org/content/statewide-video-franchising-bad-communities