Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


May 16, 2012

Laurel Highland Total Communications hosted a town-hall meeting on Tuesday in Donegal to explain FCC regulation changes that could affect rural telephone and communications customers.

Officials with Laurel Highland Total Communications said the FCC's recent Universal Service Reform will impose a series of regulations and restrictions on independent, smaller telephone companies that serve rural areas nationwide. The new reform, in part, will cease or minimize usage fees now being paid to the smaller companies by larger communication companies. The smaller companies were established when the larger ones didn't want to move into the rural areas, said Laurel Highland officials. Mountain Laurel Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kris Enberg emphasized to the audience, of about 70, the importance of communication and technology in rural communities. "Throughout my tenure with the MLCC, electronic communication has become mine and my members' major source of communication for conducting business," Enberg said. "Broadband promotes economic development through electronic commerce by creating new jobs and attracting new business while providing access to regional, national and worldwide markets via the Internet and social media."

Laurel Highland Total Communications President and CEO James Kail is spearheading a grassroots effort to bring awareness of the new service reforms. Kail also is encouraging people to get involved by signing a petition that voices displeasure with the FCC actions. Kail said because of the new regulations, smaller companies might lose money and even could be forced to close. Laurel Highland might be affected but Kail said not as much as some other companies across the country. He said there could be a possibility of local rate increases. "We are dealing with a very serious issue -- and it's a complicated issue," Kail said. "What's going on is going on under the radar, and it's going on behind closed doors."

Kail is seeking public support to have the reform reviewed and possibly reversed. "We are dealing with an over-reaching government that is digging deeper and deeper into our pockets," Kail said. "They need to be called into account." He said the FCC lacks understanding of rural living "If the people that put this together had to live by it, they would be the first to be screaming about it," Kail said. "There are five commissioners who are dictating what is going to happen to small companies and their customers. We have the power to rise up and be heard."

Kail is encouraging everyone, not only customers of his company, to sign a petition against the reform. "This is an attack on rural America and a complete disregard to the needs of rural America," Kail said. He said the petition already has more than 900 signatures nationwide and that it will be delivered to government officials. "I will be going to Washington, D.C. next week, and I will take your voice and your concerns and show them the petition," he said." We are fighting an uphill battle, but I do believe that there is hope." Connellsville (Fayette Co.) Daily Courier

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts will be among those cheering his wife, Aileen Roberts, chair of the Barnes Foundation building committee, when she and Aramark's Joe Neubauer receive the Philadelphia Award on May 24 at the Barnes' new home on the Parkway. Roberts and Neubauer, who recently went from being Aramark's CEO to its board chairman, are being honored for their involvement bringing the Barnes collection into the city. They'll donate the $25,000 Philadelphia Award honorarium back to the Barnes Foundation museum. Philadelphia Daily News

When Afroditi Kleftis wanted an array of channels so patrons at her Laundromat could watch soap operas, she had a satellite dish mounted above her front window. Her television-watching upstairs neighbors did the same, so there are now three satellite dishes mounted on the facade of the triple-decker in East Boston. "One is OK, but so many," said Ms. Kleftis, 71 years old, shaking her head. "It looks like a spaceship."

Her house is hardly the only spot where the saucers have landed. Along some streets in East Boston, satellite dishes protrude from nearly every house, with some multifamily structures decked with as many as eight. Other cities are reporting a similar outbreak. "We have blocks that look like NASA or Area 51," said William Carter, a chief staffer for the Philadelphia City Council. Leaders in congested enclaves grapple with a litany of perennial annoyances: clotheslines, idling cars, trash, garish paint jobs. Now, they are dealing with a new blight: clusters of satellite dishes. But figuring out what to do with all the old dishes can be a challenge.

Fed up, officials around the country are serving up plans to dismiss the dish. They look tacky, said Chicago Alderman Ray Suarez. "It's just ugly," said Boston City Councilman Sal LaMattina, waving down a dish-decked street in East Boston, an enclave near Logan Airport. He called a public hearing this month on the "satellite dish epidemic."

Dishes have been around for years, and there have long been gripes about their appearance. But in the past, the industry has typically gone up against homeowner associations and condo boards. Today, cities are trying to get people to clean up their dishes. Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago are among the cities that have recently passed or are drafting laws banning satellite dishes from the fronts of homes, unless a signal can't be obtained another way.

Dish companies would generally have to mount the dishes on sides, rears or roofs of homes so they aren't obvious from the street-and pick them up when customers move and leave dishes behind. The dish industry calls the ordinances a "terrible idea," and is asking the Federal Communications Commission to intervene, arguing the new regulations, current and proposed, are discriminatory and costly.

Appearance-wise, the industry says, the dish may be no dish, but is it really so homely? "A small but growing number of cities have recently singled out satellite dishes for regulation...arguing that satellite dishes are uniquely ugly," the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association, the industry trade group, said in a statement. "It is hard to understand why a satellite dish is any more 'aesthetically unpleasing,' " the group wrote, than other urban apparatus like "the multitude of air conditioning boxes that stick out of windows."

While cable is a popular option, many customers like satellite dishes to receive TV signals because they generally costs less than cable, said telecom industry analyst Jeff Kagan. But there are quirks to the service that give headaches to local officials. Customers subscribe to satellite service, which they can turn on and off. But the service comes with a dish which, for better or worse, subscribers own for life. Those who order a dish become its legal owners and are "free to move the dish with them or recycle it as they see fit," according to the satellite industry trade group. If it is left behind, "it becomes an issue between them and their landlord or new owner," the group said.

Homeowners who have outgrown their dishes, or moved into homes with dishes they don't want, have found novel ways to repurpose them. In the chat room at the technology site, posters exchange ideas. One poster said: "We filled it with good soil and compost and planted a nice selection of butterfly/hummingbird flowers in it." Alex Doak, a self-employed subcontractor who installs satellite dishes in Nashville, Tenn., said he started noticing unused dishes in the past year, and began telling residents he would be glad to take them off their hands. "There are a lot of things you can do with dishes," said Mr. Doak, 31, who now sells them online for between $20 and $60, depending on the size. "You can very easily turn the dishes into a piece of artwork if you're creative with paint," he said. "I've also seen guys try to use them as a sled." Another idea: turning them into "solar ovens."

Last month, Mr. Doak painted a 26-inch-wide dish with the orange logo of the University of Tennessee football team and is now trying to sell it. "I'm going to play with the market and see what it is willing to do," he said. "I can't think of any other industry where people are just allowed to leave the apparatus," said Mr. Carter, staffer for the Philadelphia City Council. "If it continues, imagine the slippery slope. Will we have 20 on a house?" But it isn't easy for officials to put away the dishes. A 1996 FCC rule largely prohibits local governments and homeowner boards from passing regulations that hinder the installation, upkeep or use of antennas-including dishes-to receive programs.

After Philadelphia passed an ordinance regulating dishes last fall, the satellite industry asked the FCC to review its legality. The FCC said the matter is under review and declined to comment. Philadelphia's ordinance says any dish mounted on the front of a building "shall be painted in a color that matches the building." That is onerous, the industry counters. "Each technician would have to be supplied with a significant palette of colors," Dish Network LLC and DirecTV Inc., two big dish providers, wrote in a recent brief to the FCC.

Boston City Council officials are crafting their own dish law, according to Mr. LaMattina, who represents working-class East Boston. "Look down the street," he said, turning onto one dish-heavy street. "Imagine if those satellite dishes weren't there. This would be a nice-looking little block." But some East Boston old-timers don't see what the big deal is. Nick Coviello, 77, has three "dishes or whatever you call it" on the front of his triple-decker and said they don't bother him. "What the hell is the difference?" he said. "We're not millionaires here. When you live in the city, you close your eyes." Wall Street Journal