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Compromise Reached on Cable TV Bill (HB1186)
February 28, 2012 Update: Compromise Reached on Pole Attachment Legislation
We thank each of you who took the time to contact your legislators regarding House Bill 1186. Your emails clearly delivered the message that you do not want to pay higher electric rates to subsidize Cable TV companies.

Legislators encouraged the electric cooperatives and cable TV companies to negotiate a compromise. They reached an agreement on January 31. An “amendment in the nature of a substitute” will be offered to replace HB 1186 and its counterpart in the Senate, Senate Bill 652. We anticipate passage in both the House of Delegates and the Senate.

The amended legislation authorizes the Virginia State Corporation Commission to determine just and reasonable pole attachment rates when the parties are unable to reach agreement following good faith negotiations. The Commission will take into consideration the interests of electric cooperative members in this process. Since NOVEC is regulated by the Commission, they are familiar with our rate structure and able to gauge the effects of any reduction in revenue from pole attachment fees.

At this point, we are guardedly optimistic that the compromise legislation will adequately protect the interests of NOVEC customers. There is no need for further contact with your legislators at this time. We will inform you if there is any change in our position on this legislation.

As far as future deployment of broadband by cable TV companies in the rural portions of NOVEC’s service area, this legislation will not cause that to occur. Rob Omberg, spokesman for Comcast, revealed the truth of the matter at a meeting of the Governor’s Broadband Advisory Committee in October, 2010. The minutes of that meeting stated: “Rob Omberg (Comcast) discussed how providers want to serve the most amount (sic) of homes, which means cooperative projects are not a high priority.”

Promising new wireless technology --recently introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show -- may finally bring high-speed internet to rural areas at an affordable price. Our affiliate, NOVEC Solutions, is currently investigating this exciting prospect. We will keep you informed.

Again, we thank you for your quick response to our earlier appeal regarding HB 1186.

 

Original appeal from January 2012:

HB 1186 attempts to pass their cost of doing business to YOU!

Here we go again. Cable TV companies have introduced legislation at the Virginia General Assembly that will reduce their cost of doing business at your expense. The bill (HB 1186) is a poorly disguised rewrite of last year’s telecom bill, HB1439, which was sent by the General Assembly to the Virginia State Corporation Commission for study.

The SCC conducted an exhaustive study and issued a final report on November 1, 2011. Two specific conclusions of particular importance to NOVEC’s customer-owners were reached and included in the executive summary.

  • Likely increase to electric rates “…any reduction to cooperatives' and electric investor-owned utilities' pole attachment rates will likely require an increase in consumers' electric rates if the utilities' revenue requirements remain the same.”
  • Broadband expansion in underserved areas won’t happen “…No persuasive evidence was submitted in this proceeding that proved lower pole attachment rates would directly result in additional broadband deployment.”

The cable TV bill seeks to impose a very narrow definition of “just and reasonable,” which would only provide compensation for a small portion of the cost associated with the construction and maintenance of NOVEC’s overhead distribution system.

The bottom line is that this bill will not result in greater deployment of broadband in areas lacking sufficient customer density to make it profitable for the telecoms to extend their service. What it will do is provide an under recovery of NOVEC’s costs and that takes money directly out of your pocket. We think that’s a really bad idea and hope you agree strongly enough to contact your legislators in the Virginia House and Senate about this matter today. Tell them you don’t want to pay higher electric rates to subsidize cable TV and ask them to “kill” HB 1186.

The bill has been sent to the House of Delegates Commerce and Labor Committee.

Links for the Northern Virginia delegation include:

 *Serves on Commerce and Labor Committee

Northern Virginia Senators

If you are not sure who your representative is, you can visit the Virginia General Assembly website and use the Who's My Legislator tool to quickly and easily contact your representatives about this issue.