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Bandwidth bandidos admit to their greed
by Andrew Barbano
Aug 16, 2008 | 1038 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thanks for the help. Last week, more than 200 community access television viewers and producers called Charter Communications only to be shunted to Canada by the company’s voice mail hell system. The Canucks couldn’t handle the action but Reno’s corporate offices weren’t taking any calls.

“What is most stunning is the arrogance and intractability of these people,” one producer wrote me.

In case you’ve missed it, Charter plans to move public, educational and government (PEG) television channels to the digital tier on Aug. 26. It will all but buy the coffin for the system I helped save from extinction in 1991 as a member of the Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT) founding board.

People don’t surf above channel 179 because so little is placed there. Here’s what happened when Charter put the Truckee Meadows Community College channel in cyber-Siberia.

“I suggest that you contact Fred Lokken, Dean of Technologies,” wrote a fellow TMCC professor. “For many years, he directed putting numerous college classes on access channels for the public to watch. The response was extremely positive and enthusiastic with numerous students enrolling from home and the public at large watching these shows. A couple of years ago, Charter moved the college channel to 200. It killed the program. It no longer exists because of this decision. I applaud you for your efforts for the community.”

A couple of weeks ago, SNCAT executive director Les Smith stated that the TMCC channel “was originally designated to be brokered by SNCAT and populated with programming from the University of Nevada, TMCC and the Washoe County School District.

“TMCC produced programming and put classes on the channel to start with,” Smith said. “But after Charter failed to follow through with a promise to provide special digital boxes for students, the audience for channel 200 basically dropped to zero. So, TMCC gave up and they haven’t put any new programming on the channel for the last couple of years.”

The other PEG channels may suffer the same fate if Charter isn’t stopped in court.

I told the Reno City Council last week that at a time when the state budget crisis is collapsing our entire educational system, the one cost-free resource, in place and available to help is being assassinated by corporate greed.

As I wrote on Aug. 10, many Charter subscribers will be deprived of something they’ve already paid for. The community television system has been built and operated by the franchise fee in your cable bills for almost 20 years. Now, Charter wants to charge you more money to see your own property.

Charter’s point grease man George Jostlin admitted to the Reno Gazette-Journal that the move is purely about corporate profit, as I have documented for the past two weeks. They can cash the community access bandwidth for big bucks.

Charter is moving channels 13, 15, 16 and 17 to the premium digital tier. You will need to rent a digital converter box to get them and unless you are a very adventuresome do-it-yourselfer willing to pick it up yourself, you will also get stuck with a $29.99 installation fee for the privilege of paying the pirates their monthly pound of flesh. Adding insult to injury, you’ll also keep paying the same franchise fees even if you don’t rent the box. (This has nothing to do with the converters necessary next February for conventional TV sets receiving signals through the air. If your set is cable-ready and you subscribe to only basic or expanded basic, you will not need a converter box no matter what happens with over-the-air digital TV. Charter is responsible for a lot of public confusion as a subterfuge to lay the blame on the feds.)

According to Les Smith, Charter is stretching wording in a state law passed in 2007 “as a get out of jail free card.”

I submit that Charter’s actions are both unethical and illegal.

Many of those who called Charter last week also e-mailed Reno City Hall. About an hour’s worth of angry ratepayers followed up with impassioned pleas before the council on Thursday. (You can view the re-run on Charter channels 13 and 213 from 10 to 11 this morning. See it while it’s still free.) Councilman Dave Aiazzi asked that the issue be formally agendized for this Wednesday’s meeting and requested that the city attorney present options for legal action.

My consumer guerrillas will go to court anyway. I have been too often disappointed by the actions of governments at all levels to wait for them to move in such a short time frame. An experienced attorney and a paralegal are donating their valuable time and we can use any and all additional assistance. Even if we get all legal work donated, there are still substantial costs involved in fighting these horse thieves. Please help if you can and thanks to those who have already joined the campaign.

If you can afford it, please go to to contribute via credit or debit card or send your check payable to ReSurge.TV to P.O. Box 10034, Reno NV 89510.

Stay tuned to my daily call-in program and show up at Reno City Hall this Wednesday if you can. Call and write if you can’t. Or do all of the above.


Last week’s figures for the cost of basic and expanded basic were slightly off, probably reflecting discounts or added taxes. Charter’s retail price for basic service is $19.99 per month, expanded basic costs $52.99. Taxes and fees are additional.

My expanding fan club

I take comfort in the knowledge that my cable and Web TV show has lots of viewers at Charter corporate. They appear to be doing their best to make sure my audience doesn’t grow. On Charter’s TV Guide listings, all of the access channels save one carry references to their proposed new digital homes. Only Channel 16, home of both my show and all the community group programs, has no reference that it is also available at Channel 216.

The Dragon Lady and her pups remain infamous in their pettiness.

Don’t forget

This Saturday is the 40th anniversary celebration of the construction of Pat Baker Park in northeast Reno, built to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the year of his death. When the rest of the country was in flames, Pat Shannon Baker was promoting peace and understanding here in Mississippi West. To contribute and/or participate in the all-day event at the newly renovated facility, call Lonnie Feemster at 425-3831 or see

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, editor of, former chair of the City of Reno’s Citizens Cable Compliance Committee and serves as political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. He hosts live news and talk (682-4144) Monday through Friday, 2 to 4 p.m., at Barbwire.TV and Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 (until Aug. 26) and 216. E-mail Barbwire by Barbano premiered in the Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988. Tempus fugit.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
John Riggs
August 16, 2008
The article on our local cable TV was very good and informative. Sadly, cable gets away with holding us hostage by their monopoly here in Reno/Sparks.

They have moved other channels to places no one even knows about until they arbitrarily decide to let you know too late to protest.

The Legislature, County Commission and the Reno/Sparks City Councils need to take action in favor of the people of Washoe Co. and our community at large. What did we elect them to do anyway? Do they forget about the voters every successful elcetion cycle?

Come on representatives, stand up for your constituents. Yes, I mean the people.

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