Taking a stand for public access
SUNDERLAND >> Representatives of the Vermont Access Network (VAN), the association of twenty-six Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) media centers across the state, testified before the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) in Montpelier on July 18. VAN members spoke about on necessary conditions to support PEG access as Comcast seeks renewal of its 11 year Certificate of Public Good to provide cable service in Vermont, also known as PSB Docket 8301.
VAN, which is a party to the docket, will take the stand to highlight a number of issues of vital importance for the health and survival of free speech and community access to cable television and its advanced features. VAN witnesses from Bennington, Burlington and Montpelier will speak to the value of continued access to cable channels, interactive program guides and live TV connections from public locations such as schools, libraries and municipal offices. VAN witnesses will also speak on the importance of access to high definition channels and advanced network features that cable subscribers now take for granted.
VAN membership is concerned with having parity with other channels on the cable line up and being offered the same platform for communicating with the public, amidst rapidly-evolving media technology.
Thousands of Vermonters, municipal, educational, cultural and nonprofit bodies rely on VAN's community media centers to reach the public. Currently, the majority of VAN's member PEG centers cablecast on Comcast, and are largely funded by Comcast, in accordance with state regulations and federal law. Together 66 PEG channels produce more media – nearly 40,000 hours per year - than any other content source in Vermont.
In the fall of 2015, there was a public outpouring of support for PEG stations as the Public Service Department undertook a community needs assessment, which included focus groups, letters from the public and a statewide October 21st public hearing with the Public Service Board.
"VAN's testimony during the hearings will be the culmination of many, many months of diligent work by our statewide regulatory committee. We're confident that we'll demonstrate why we need to be provided the same opportunities as commercial television organizations in order to remain as vital as ever to the Vermont communities we serve," says Kevin Christopher, Executive Director of Lake Champlain Access Television in Colchester and the President of the VAN Board of Directors. Comcast's Certificate of Public Good will determine the activities of the cable giant in the state for the next 11 years.
The public is invited to follow the progress of the hearings through recordings done by the Montpelier VAN member, Onion River Community Access TV.
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