The California cable and telecommunications industry has greatly evolved over the last half century. Just as California cable has evolved, so has its power to transform our society.
Historically, cable service has been regulated by local franchising authorities, Cable companies were awarded non-exclusive “franchises” to serve local communities, and many of those franchises continue to exist today. In 2007, California passed the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act (“DIVCA,” P.U. Code Section 5800 et.seq.) which provided for state franchises authorized by the State Public Utilities Commission. Under either franchising authority, cable operators provide substantial contributions to the communities they serve:
- Cable operators set aside channels for government, public and educational use, allowing members of the community to produce and show unique local programming.
- Cable systems pay “franchise fees” (usually 5 percent of the system’s video revenues) to the local community.
- Government-mandated public interest obligations require that “equal time” be given to candidates running for public office and that advertising sales be restricted on children’s TV shows. Cable companies continue to be significant charitable contributors to a wide variety of social and cultural community causes.
Cable Serves Many Communities
Unlike most communications competitors, cable is regulated at the federal, state and local levels—so it never loses sight of the importance of remaining actively involved in all of them. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) represents the complex legislative and regulatory goals of the national cable industry. CCTA works as an advocate on behalf of our state’s unique cable customers, operators and businesses. But most important, in every case, cable operators are local businesses—with local employees serving local customers. At every level, cable is actively working to make its communities better. Here are a few examples:
Cable as Local Citizen
In addition to programs initiated by the cable industry, every year California cable operators make sizeable contributions to their own local charities to assist a variety of important programs that support local California charities, the arts, sporting events, food drives, YMCAs, pageants, concerts, auctions, hospitals, and shelters for abused women and children — among many others.
Cable as State Citizen
The California Channel, modeled after C-SPAN, is supported by California cable operators and brings gavel-to-gavel coverage of the state legislature and other public affair programs to Californians. The California Channel has won an Emmy Award for its public affairs programs. As a public service it airs Cable’s Free Air Time Project—presenting personal interviews of all statewide general election candidates.
Take Your Parents to Cyberschool was initiated by the national “Cable in the Classroom” program. As part of an effort to put parents more in control of their kids’ viewing habits, this program brings kids and parents together to discuss media content on the Internet. CCTA joined forces with the California PTA to link information about this innovative program to state educators and parents.
Safe From the Start is a statewide program sponsored by the California Attorney General’s Office, the California Children and Families Commission, Court TV, CCTA and others, to provide regional forums and workshops for California community leaders to help improve the health and reduce the number of children exposed to violence.
Cable as Federal Citizen
Cable Positive is the cable industry’s national non-profit organization dedicated to unifying the talents, resources, access and influence of the communications industry to raise AIDS awareness. Cable Positive funds AIDS education, research and care, and promotes a compassionate climate for people whose lives have been affected by HIV and AIDS. The industry has donated millions of dollars of air time telecasting PSAs that inform and educate about the virus that infects thousands of people every day.
Cable’s High Speed Education Connection is the industry’s national program to wire schools and libraries in the community they serve to high-speed Internet access through cable modems. Launched in 1996, this commitment provides K-12 schools and public libraries passed by cable with a free cable modem and free high-speed Internet access. The program includes webTeacher, a teacher-training component helping teachers integrate the Internet into class curriculum.
Competition in the cable and communications industries is not just something we anticipate for the future – it’s here, now! And competition is dramatically changing how we communicate, how we are entertained, and what services we use.
Competition means more choices, new services and lower prices. The cable industry has invested billions of dollars nationwide to compete head to head in other communications service markets, such as broadband and telephony, making the competitive goals of state and federal law a reality.
Digital video – To compete with satellite and other video providers, cable has aggressively invested in providing digital video capacity to all communities in California.
Internet – Providing high-speed Internet service is another growing competitive market. Competitors, like local telephone companies, fixed wireless, and satellite are providing alternative broadband service that is increasing annual subscribership annually.
Telephone Service – Cable has captured a significant share of telephone service customers with new offerings like Voice Over Internet Protocol voice services (VoIP), that provides innovative voice services at significant cost savings to California consumers.
Broadband Competition: DSL vs. Cable Modem
Until recently, those who wanted the fast connections to the Internet had to pay big bucks. But the cost of moving to the information fast lane continues to come down. Increased competition between the companies that provide Internet access through phone lines and cable modems has caused rates to drop sharply in the last year or so. And with new competitors joining the fray, more and more customers will be able to experience the fast and “always on” benefits of cable broadband. Cable companies offering Internet access were the first to drop rates, forcing local telephone companies offering DSL to do the same.
Cable companies have invested billions of dollars nationally to upgrade their infrastructure and improve their facilities. Part of the reason is to bring customers more programming, better picture and sound, digital services, HDTV capability, and two-way interactive services.
The Walter Kaitz Foundation: Working to Better Reflect the Communities We Serve
Solving the Digital Divide won’t happen by simply assuring that certain ethnic groups get more computer hardware. The cable industry believes it also takes getting people of color into decision-making jobs in the cable and communications industries. More than fifteen years ago, the Walter Kaitz Foundation was created here in California to increase the diversity of the national cable and communications workforce. The Foundation continues to work, through outreach and in partnerships with others, to provide new opportunities and advancement to people of color in the cable industry. The Foundation delivers educational programs to assist those who may be new to the industry, and provides web-based recruitment and placement needs.
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