Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


January 31, 2014

Opponents of a bill that would allow telephone carriers to scale back their investments in landlines are turning their attention to the Kentucky House of Representatives after the bill sailed through the Senate on Thursday. Opponents believe they can kill it in the House, were similar legislation has died in recent years, said Tom Fitzgerald, executive director of the Kentucky Resources Council.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who has been instrumental in killing the bill the past two years, said he hasn't seen the current bill but likes changes made this year. "It's getting better," he said. Senate Bill 99, generally referred to as "the AT&T Bill" because of the huge telecommunications company's backing, passed the Senate on a vote of 34-4. Democrats Denise Harper Angel of Louisville and Robin Webb of Grayson opposed the measure. So did Republicans Stan Humphries of Cadiz and Albert Robinson of London.

Under current law, AT&T and other "carriers of last resort" are required to extend landline service to every home and business in the state. But the bill would give them freedom to provide wireless or voice over Internet services in some areas rather than traditional land lines. AT&T argues that would allow it to spend more on extending newer technology into underserved parts of the state.

Versions of the bill have stalled the past two years in the House because leaders there were concerned phone companies would stop providing landlines in rural areas, where wireless technology is sometimes spotty. Sen. Paul Hornback, the bill's sponsor, and AT&T reworked the bill this year in an effort to break the impasse in the House.

With those changes, the bill now requires the companies to continue providing landline services to customers who currently have landlines in all exchanges with less that 15,000 customers. Once someone drops their landline in those areas, they risk losing that service for good, unless they inform the phone company in writing within 30 days that they want the service back. In larger exchanges, the companies would be allowed to end landline services at their discretion. Brad McLean, a lobbyist for AT&T, said that means customers in 11 exchanges, all in urban areas, could be at risk of losing landline service. But Fitzgerald argues that because there is no definition of an "exchange" in Kentucky law, the companies could redefine what an exchange is and begin abandoning lines throughout the state. Louisville Courier-Journal

Our house will be full of anticipation and uncertainty this Sunday-and not because anyone in my family is a Denver or Seattle fan. No, for us this weekend's big question is whether, and how, we will be able to watch the Super Bowl.

We disconnected our pay-television service last fall and now rely entirely for our video entertainment on outlets piped through the Internet: Netflix, Amazon's Prime Instant Video and HBO's HBO Go Internet application. And that means no automatic access to the Super Bowl telecast. Until now, this setup has worked fine. We're not sports fans and rarely watched the broadcast networks when we had pay TV. But having regular TV comes in handy during the year for a couple of big events: the Super Bowl and the Oscars. With both coming up, I needed to figure out how to tune in.

It should be simple. Both the big game and the Academy Awards air on broadcast networks, theoretically available to anyone with an antenna. Moreover, I am technically receiving the local stations-the broadcasters-from my broadband provider, Verizon That is because we agreed to keep "receiving" local TV channels in exchange for a discount on our broadband price. One advantage is that we are classified as video subscribers, qualifying us to get HBO. In other words, we aren't technically cord-cutters but what is known in the industry as cord-shavers.

No matter. We can't watch local channels without a cable box, which we don't have, or a TV set more advanced than ours. Using an old-fashioned antenna is an option but not as simple as it sounds. Since television broadcasters switched to digital transmission technology a few years ago, viewers with a set more than a few years old need a digital antenna and a digital converter box. Even though I have a 42-inch plasma flat-panel TV, I needed both. After online research, where I noted that quite a few people reviewing digital antennas claimed to be cord-cutters, I headed to Best Buy.

It took two trips, to different Best Buys, and an outlay of $100 before I have the right equipment-almost. For best reception, online reviewers say, I needed an outdoor antenna perched on top of my house. But because I don't feel like killing myself climbing up onto my steep roof in the middle of a New Jersey winter, I opted for an indoor model that looked like a dinner plate, which can sit on a table next to the TV. But this may become a fatally flawed decision. After spending some time plugging in cables to the converter box, antenna and TV, I can receive a few channels, including most major networks, but none too reliably. On many of them, the screen image pixilates frequently. And I can't pick up ABC at all-a problem when the Oscars roll out. Fox, which is airing this year's Super Bowl, comes in reasonably clearly, most of the time. How it will work on game night, though, is literally up in the air.

There are a couple of other viewing options. I could sign up for Aereo, the legally contentious service that is streaming broadcast stations to those willing to pay $8 a month. But aside from the fact that the broadcasters are fighting through the courts to shut the service down, I'm not keen on signing up for another subscription service on top of Netflix, Amazon and HBO. The final option: Fox plans to stream the game via its Fox Sports Go app to tablets like iPads. Balancing an iPad on my lap while my son and I shovel salsa and chips into our mouths sounds like a recipe for a messy screen, not a viewing experience. Fox tells me I will be able to "mirror," or transfer, the iPad image to the TV via my Apple TV device. That sounds ideal, but Fox says the commercials won't be the same for those watching via the app-which turns me off this option. Watching the ads is for me half the reason to see the Super Bowl.

Also, I've tried mirroring broadcast TV before and I've found it doesn't always work. That is likely my own technological klutziness, but whatever the case, I'd like to test this setup beforehand. Unfortunately, the Fox Sports Go app is usually only available to subscribers of certain TV providers, and Verizon isn't on the list. Fox is making the app available for everyone on the day of the Super Bowl-but whether it will work and mirror to the TV is something I won't know for sure until game night. Chances are that one of these options will work-at least until I lose interest in the game, usually around the second quarter. But on March 2, when ABC shows the Oscars, I will need a better solution. Giving up early then won't be an option.

My wife is already buttering up friends to find us a friendly pay-TV household for optimal viewing. Wall Street Journal

Comcast Corp., of Philadelphia, and NBCUniversal will target advertisements to cable-TV subscribers similar to direct-mail advertisers, the companies said on Thursday. Comcast's cable division and NBCUniversal said they will be the first in the media industry to enable the targeted cable-TV advertisements to specific consumer groups, such as luxury car owners. The advertisements will first appear on NBCUniversal-owned shows downloaded on the Comcast on-demand platform. The targeted-ad technology preserves the privacy of TV subscribers, Comcast executive Andrew Ward said. Philadelphia Inquirer

York County businessman and former state revenue secretary Tom Wolf is airing his first TV ad to support his campaign for governor. Wolf's campaign said the ad began running Thursday on broadcast and cable stations in every Pennsylvania media market, except for Erie. Wolf is among eight Democrats who say they plan to run for the party's nomination to challenge Republican Governor Tom Corbett in the November 4th election. The ad runs 60 seconds. Wolf's campaign isn't saying how much it's spending on the ad or how long it will run. The primary election is May 20th. Friday is the deadline for the candidates' campaigns to report to the state who gave money to them and how they spent it. Associated Press