Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 01 July 2011 00:00
If there’s one thing that makes Mineola unique to many villages, it’s the televising of its board of trustees meeting on public access television. However, if a federal proposal from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gets approved, cable companies could circumvent local village boards and take away certain village amenities.
Mineola residents may lose access to the village’s public access TV channel 19 if an ongoing effort by the FCC and cable lobbyists to “supersede the authority of the village” is approved, according to village trustee Larry Werther.
“If the cable companies are not beholden to the villages, I would also take a guess that if the franchise fees and their responsibilities to us go away, that our public service access channels would go away also,” Werther said at the boards most recent meeting at village hall.
The resolution, which was adopted April 7 and whose 60 day comment period has come and gone, would reportedly eliminate the village’s authority over “the stringing of cable wires,” broadband Internet and strip villages of their ability to negotiate with cable companies for franchise fees. Whether or not the legislation has been approved is unknown at this time.
Emails to the FCC went unanswered.
“This is something that has been brought to the attention of the Nassau County Village Officials Association but I think it’s real important to wait and see the NCVOA weigh in on this.” Werther said.
Should the cable companies be allowed to bypass the franchise fees, it would amount to about $330,000 in revenue loss to the village. As part of their agreements with local governments, many municipalities ask that companies provide local access channels to their residents.
The village currently has agreements with Cablevision and Verizon to operate franchises in Mineola. For Cablevision, there’s an insertion point in the agreement that you have to be watching in Mineola to get the meetings. With Verizon, you can be anywhere to view the meetings.
Werther called the move a “threat to our home rule authorities” and asked that the village board draft a joint response with the NCVOA and one independently.
He also asked residents to reach out to their federally elected officials including Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to voice their opposition to the resolution.
“We should tell [our representatives] that this is not a good idea,” Werther said. “Home rule has always been the way to go. It’s always been one of the important foundations of local governments across the country.”
NCVOA attorney Thomas Levin has reportedly volunteered to issue a joint response from the various villages to the FCC at no charge.
“I have called our senator and our congresswoman,” Mineola resident Dennis Walsh said. “I hope a lot of people will call. They’re not going to take away everything so it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take away public access television. I guess they could. But they’ll certainly try to limit the power we have.”
“If this does go through, it would take away the ability for us to supply these meetings on TV,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said.
Strauss authorized village attorney John Spellman to weigh in on the application.