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Recycle “Anything with a Plug” at InterConnection’s Free 2015 eCycle Event

InterConnection and CenturyLink are hosting a major, City-wide electronics, free recycling event at CenturyLink Field’s North Parking Lot, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. this Saturday April 11th. InterConnection’s 2015 eCycle Event will give the community a chance to recycle any used electronics they have free of charge. People can recycle personal devices like cell phones and laptops, household items such as TVs and stereos as well as kitchen appliances both large and small. Anything with a plug will be accepted.  More info here.

CenturyLink broadband update, April 14, 6 p.m.

At the April 14 meeting of the City’s Technology Advisory Board, CenturyLink will be providing an update on their broadband and gigabit service buildout. Mary Taylor, State and Local Government Director, and Robert Larsen, Director of Local Network Planning will be presenting. The meeting will be held at 6 pm in the 27th floor conference room, Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Ave. Click here for more information about CTAB .

Cable Code Updates Impact Competition and Customer Service

Seattle cable TV customers might be interested to know that the City recently updated its Cable Code. On April 27th, there will be a workshop for building managers who may be asked to sign cable contracts (more below). Many people don’t even know Seattle has a ‘Cable Code’, but it is the part of Seattle Municipal Code (Section 21.60) that sets rules for cable TV companies operating in the City.  The Cable Code includes an entire section dedicated to consumer protection issues; called the Cable Customer Bill of Rights.

The Cable Code was long overdue for an update; 63 percent of it was over 36 years old – written in 1976.  That’s when TVs still had dials, TV remote controls weren’t commonly available, and when the first VHS home video cassette recorder was introduced.  It’s also when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a new rule requiring all new cable systems to have 20 channels.  A lot has changed in cable TV technology and regulation since 1976.

While most of the Code updates were to fix outdated information and processes and ensure consistency with current federal cable law, there were a few more substantial changes. These changes focused on helping promote a more competition-friendly environment, while enhancing cable customer protections.

Promoting More Cable Competition

Increasing the competitive environment for cable service was done by eliminating the old structure of Cable Franchise Districts (see map here: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~ordpics/114546a.gif) which divided the City into large, irregular sections. The Districts were the results of cable company evolution in the City, with original smaller companies operating in certain areas being bought by larger companies, slowly creating five (5) very large franchise areas.  By eliminating the Cable Districts, a cable operator (new or existing) can now apply to build-out and serve smaller segments of the City, making it more likely a company might make that investment.  Along with these new, more flexible build out requirements, cable operators are required to make a commitment to serving lower income areas to ensure the benefits of having cable competition also reaches these areas.

Enhanced Cable Customer Protections

More cable competition could positively impact customer service in the future, but updates to the Cable Customer Bill of Rights (CCBOR) provisions can help individual customers now. Originally enacted in 1999, the CCBOR provides Seattleites with enhanced consumer protections and is meant to encourage cable operators to consistently provide good service to customers, or to compensate customers when they don’t. The recent CBBOR changes offer three key improvements:

  1. Cable companies using interactive voice response (IVR) systems are required to give you the option to speak to a live customer service agent within 3 minutes of your call being answered by the IVR. If you select to speak with a live customer service agent, that agent is required to answer the call within 30 seconds of your being transferred to them. These rules apply during normal business hours, which are Mon-Fri, 9:00 a.m. -7:00 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (see SMC 21.60.820.B.4)
  2. Cable companies, upon your request, are required to send you a written statement detailing the estimated cost of the service, repair, or installation you are asking about before delivery of the service or before any work is performed. (see SMC 21.60.820.E.5)
  3. The amount of minimum compensation a cable operator is required to provide a cable TV customer when the company fails to comply with Seattle’s customer service standards has increased from an average of $5.00 to $20.00. A table listing all of Seattle’s cable customer service standards, and the minimum compensation for violations of the standards, is available under SMC 21.60.850. Because these are unique to Seattle and customer service agents are usually not located in the Seattle area, customers need to know your rights under the CCBOR and request compensation for any violation.

Owners of Multi-Family Dwelling Buildings

It’s a smart business practice for both building owners and cable operators to have clear written agreements on the conditions of providing access and cable services to the building. Coming to these agreements can be complicated. The City has added language to the Cable Code to ensure building owners and cable companies are clear on their rights when it comes to exclusive service and right-of entry aspects of agreements for cable service. This includes language that says cable operators can no longer require a long-term exclusive agreement as a condition of service.

To help building owners and managers understand their rights and this new Code language, the City is holding a free seminar later this month (Monday, April 27th at 6:30pm at Seattle Pacific University).  To register to attend, email the Office of at Office of Cable and Broadband cableoffice@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-5957.

These Cable Code changes were approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Murray the week of March 23, 2015, and go into effect on April 27, 2015.  If you have questions about the Code changes or need help resolving an issue with your cable company, contact Seattle’s Office of Cable and Broadband at (206) 684-8498 or cableoffice@seattle.gov. You can also visit their website to file a comment or to find other useful cable related information at www.seattle.gov/cable.

Hey cities, why not neighbors that share broadband?

The National League of Cities blog features a call for municipal broadband programs and policies to increase affordability by enabling greater sharing of Internet service. The proposal is written by two longtime community technology experts, Angela Siefer, adjunct fellow at the Pell Center at Salve Regina University and Bill Callahan, director of Connect Your Community.

Performance Seattle and Seattle Open Budget

At his State of the City Speech on February 17, Mayor Ed Murray announced two new online tools based on open data.

Performance Seattle (performance.seattle.gov) uses current data to monitor progress against the goals set for the future of the City of Seattle.  At present, nine City departments are contributing data about how well they are meeting their goals, such as reducing traffic fatalities, reducing our carbon footprint and responding quickly to fires.  In the coming months, all City departments will set performance targets and report regularly to the public on their progress.

Seattle Open Budget (openbudget.seattle.gov) provides greater transparency into the City’s budget with graphs, charts and maps in an easy-to-use interface, and is a leap forward in budget reporting for our City.

Taken together, both of these resources will help us as a City achieve better goal-setting, better tracking, better use of data, and better outcomes.

 

Get your taxes done for free

Jan 13 – Apr 18, United Way Offers Free Tax Help

Take advantage of United Way’s Free Tax Preparation services. Neighborhood sites are open January 13 to April 18, 2015. Tax help is available in your neighborhood and in your language from IRS-certified volunteers. They’ll help you get all the credits you qualify for and file your return electronically, so you’ll get your refund fast. The best news: No appointment needed and no fees to pay.

For more information, please go: here.

Comcast resolution approved

Seattle City Council approves resolution and Mayor signs the legislation calling on the FCC to consider public benefits in Comcast and Time Warner merger. The resolution proposes that certain public-interest obligations be required of Comcast Corporation for its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable Incorporated in the event the merger is approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

Digital Literacy Forum

The 21st Century has changed the way we live, learn and work, making digital literacy a necessity for succeeding in today’s world. Seattle Goodwill is committed to ensuring that everyone in our community who needs digital literacy skills gets them.

Contribute to the conversation at the Digital Literacy Forum on March 4, 11:30 to 1:00 p.m. at the Seattle Goodwill Administration Building (700 Dearborn Pl. S, Seattle, 98144).  Join moderator, Bob Hughes, Seattle University’s Associate Dean for Research and Online/Professional Education and panelists James Thomas, Corporate Diversity Affairs Director for Nordstrom, Bruce Harrell, Seattle City Councilmember, and Dr. Amy Morrison Goings, President of the Lake Washington Institute of Technology.  Also participating will be Daryl Campbell, President/CEO Seattle Goodwill and Steve Kipp, Vice President of Communications for Comcast.

Lunch is included, please RSVP to kim.tepe@seattlegoodwill.org or 206-860-5738.

Watch Me Now: notes on a surveillance society

PechaKucha Seattle, in collaboration with The Seattle Public Library, present “Watch Me Now: Notes on a Surveillance Society,” on February 26.  The event will bring together speakers from across the information ecosystem – including policy makers, technologists, advocates, and others to discuss the complex issues surrounding privacy and surveillance in the digital world.

This free public event will be in the Microsoft Auditorium at Central Library (1000 4th Ave) on Thursday, February 26th at 5:30pm. Starting this Thursday, February 5th, please see http://www.pechakucha.org/cities/seattle or http://www.spl.org for more information.

Scheduled speakers include Ryan Calo from the University of Washington Law School and co-director of the UW Tech Policy Lab; Frank Catalano, technology analyst and columnist for GeekWire; Jared Friend, Technology and Liberty Director for the ACLU of Washington State; Ramez Naam, former Microsoft executive, computer scientist, and award winning author; Ben Krokower, Chair, Seattle Citizens Technology and Telecommunications Board; and many other local and regional experts on privacy and surveillance issues.

PechaKucha Seattle was founded in 2006. Since its inception, PechaKucha Seattle has hosted 39 events city-wide. Over 400 presenters and have reached thousands of people to celebrate the amazing people that make our region so wonderful. PechaKucha provides a place for creative cross-pollination that is generative, personal, and truly engaging.

The Seattle Public Library brings people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. The Library supports early learning and the joy of reading through our collections and resources, services, programs and partnerships. The Library also believes that privacy is essential to free speech, free thought and free association. The Library maintains a policy of confidentiality that covers library borrower records, including requests for information, use of online services, and library loan transactions.

Celebrate radio: the big power of Seattle’s new low power FM radio stations

Join 12 new Low Power FM neighborhood radio stations in celebration of receiving their Federal Communications Commission approval to build everything they need to start broadcasting on February 13 5:00 PM at the Central Library. Enjoy a slice of our radio tower cake, “lightning talks” from the new stations, broadcast coverage maps, and information on how to get involved. Find out what radio can do for your neighborhood, and how you can be a part of it!

The celebration will be streamed live online by Hollow Earth Radio, Seattle University Radio, and University of Washington Bothell’s UWave, three of the recipients of the FCC construction permits. Two additional stations in Seattle that have applied for FCC licenses and are awaiting approval will join in the celebration and lightning talks.

RSVP here: http://celebrateradio.brownpapertickets.com

This event is produced by the Brown Paper Tickets Doer Program as an advocacy initiative to build communications infrastructure for stronger communities. Thanks to Seattle Public Library for their generous support.

FCC Approved Stations
Hollow Earth Radio (Central District) / 100.3 FM Seattle University
Radio (First Hill/Capitol Hill/Central District) /102.1 FM
Sand Point Arts & Cultural Exchange (Magnuson Park) / 101.1 FM Rainier
Valley Radio (Rainier Valley) / 105.7 FM KMIH Booster Club (Downtown Seattle) / 101.1 FM OneAmerica (SeaTac) / 106.5
FM City of Kent (Kent) / 101.1 FM
Voice of Vashon (Vashon Island) / 101.9 FM
Fab-5 (Tacoma) / 95.3 FM
Radio Duvall / 103.1 FM
UWave Radio at UW Bothell / 104.9 FM
Make.Shift (Bellingham) / 94.9 FM

AWAITING FCC APPROVAL
Fulcrum Community Communications (NW Seattle) / 107.3 FM Earth
On-the-Air Independent Media (University District) / 105.7 FM