Members of a regional cable franchise advisory council questioned the need for their state-mandated group with changes in the industry.
Meriden, Southington and Cheshire send representatives to the Cable TV Franchise Advisory Council that meets about six times a year at a Cox Communications office on Highland Avenue in Cheshire. Dissolution was discussed at a meeting earlier this month and it wasn’t the first time.
“The nature of cable TV has changed since the cable advisory committees came to be.” said Susan Moore, a council member representing the Meriden Board of Education.
No vote was taken.
Cable advisory councils were originally required by state Department of Public Utility Control when the Cox franchise was the only video provider in the region. Councils could report problems to the state, which had the power, for example, to regulate rate increases and require Cox to provide cable service to all residents in a region.
When AT&T's U-verse cable, phone and internet service was introduced in 2006, it sidestepped the state's franchise rules and led to fewer regulations on Cox as well.
Peter Talbot, Cox Communications liaison to the council and a Cheshire Town Council member, said the authority of cable advisory councils has almost entirely evaporated.
“They don’t really have a lot of jurisdiction anymore,” he said.
The board can still advocate on behalf of customers, but even that’s rare, said Mike Solimine, a Cheshire resident and cable council member.
“Really nothing has happened in the past couple of years,” he said.
“There’s been an issue filling spots,” Solimine said. “We don’t really do anything, so that may be the issue.”
In 2009, cable council member and Cheshire resident Ron Urquhart resigned his seat saying the group had no authority over Cox or much of anything.
The advisory council can’t disband without state action, however. Council Chairman Henry Chase, of Cheshire, is going to talk with a member of that town’s state delegation about the possibility.
Solimine said the cable TV industry could change again, making the council useful.
“I’d be in favor of reducing their required meetings,” he said. “If things go away they don’t come back.”
For Moore, the council is a good avenue of contact with Cox on televising Meriden school board meetings. She said the industry had changed a lot since the council was first created though, and left the council without much to do.
“That’s not the structure of the business anymore,” she said.