MAY 3, 2005 SECOND SYSTEM PERFORMANCE AUDIT OF 2000 CABLE TELEVISION FRANCHISE AGREEMENT WITH COX COMMUNICATIONS MAY 3, 2005 SECOND SYSTEM PERFORMANCE AUDIT OF 2000 CABLE TELEVISION FRANCHISE AGREEMENT WITH COX COMMUNICATIONS

TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL

FROM: ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER/CITY CLERK

DATE: MAY 3, 2005

SUBJECT: SECOND SYSTEM PERFORMANCE AUDIT OF 2000 CABLE TELEVISION FRANCHISE AGREEMENT WITH COX COMMUNICATIONS

RECOMMENDATION

Provide staff and Cox Communications with feedback regarding the second scheduled system performance audit of the 2000 Cable Television Franchise Agreement.

DISCUSSION

On February 1, 2005, the City Council began the second system performance audit of the 2000 Cable Television Franchise Renewal Agreement with Cox Communications.
Council continued the performance audit for 90 days in order to allow Cox adequate time to provide the data required so that Council may evaluate Cox’s performance on three data indicators where the cable operator were found to be deficient:

 Service Level (% of calls answered within 30 seconds),
 Acceptable Use Policy
 Service Appointments

Council also directed staff to prepare a matrix containing all of the criteria used during the audit to evaluate the performance of the cable operator. In the matrix presented on the following pages, staff has shaded the cells pertaining to the three issues listed above for ease of identification. Data submitted by the cable operator pertaining to the Service Level % during the first quarter of 2005 and its responsiveness to service and installation requests are attached to this report for the Council’s information.

 

 

 

CABLE TELEVISION FRANCHISE
2ND PERFORMANCE AUDIT
CRITIERIA PERFORMANCE COMPLIANCE
Cable System Improvements
Cable System Improvements – Has the cable operator provided new, improved or expanded services to its customers? (City standard) In the last two years, the cable operator has added three new services: 1) High Definition Television; 2) Digital Video Recorders; and, 3) Entertainment on Demand Staff finds that the cable operator has continued to improve the type of cable services available to its customers since the first performance audit
Channel Offerings – Has the cable operator continued to improve the number and variety of channels available to its customers? (City standard) In the last two years, Cox has added 4 new analog channels, 17 new digital channels and 3 high definition channels to its line up. During this same period, Cox deleted a total of 8 channels (5 pay-per-view channels, one analog channel and two digital channels). Staff finds that the cable operator has provided a net increase in the number of channels available to its customers. In addition, the cable operator still has adequate bandwidth available to further to expand the number of analog and digital channels in its system.
Customer Service
Service Level – Has the customer call center been answering customer calls within 30 seconds of the connection being made 90% of the time, under normal operating conditions? The February 1, 2005 staff report indicated the cable operator had met the federal standard in only two months in the last two years. (Federal standard) The cable operator has provided staff with data for the first quarter in 2005 showing that it was able to steadily improve the service level over the last three months until it reached a high of 95.5% in March 2005, the highest level achieved in the last two years. In order to determine if the higher level of performance will continue, staff recommends reviewing the results at the end of each quarter and reporting the results to Council.

Subscriber Information – Has the cable operator provided all new subscribers and annually to existing subscribers, notifications regarding customer rights, privacy rights (applies to high speed data service), equipment compatibility and picture quality? (City standard) Instead of once a year as required by the Franchise Agreement, Cox sends out the required notification twice a year to all its subscribers as an insert in the billing statement.
Staff finds that the cable operator is in compliance with this requirement.
Privacy Flag – Has the cable operator advertised the “privacy flag” option that is available to subscribers? (City standard) Cox offers the privacy flag to its customers and includes information about this service in the new subscriber and twice-yearly information packets described in the previous bullet point. Staff finds that the cable operator is in compliance with this requirement.
CRITIERIA PERFORMANCE COMPLIANCE
Customer Service (continued)
Acceptable Use Policy – Has the cable operator notified its high speed Internet customers of changes to the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) in the subscriber’s bill a minimum of 30 days in advance of the change, rather than only being posted on a website? (City standard) The Acceptable Use Policy that is currently posted on the Cox web site contains the following instructions to High Speed Internet subscribers: “You should consult this document regularly to ensure that your activities conform to the most recent version.” In addition, the cable operator has indicated that they notify High Speed Internet customers of changes to the AUP by an email notification a minimum of 30 days in advance. This method of informing subscribers about changes in the AUP does not comply with specific requirements of the City’s customer service standard, which requires the cable operator to provide written notice by mail 30 days in advance of the change. Staff is seeking direction from Council on this issue. Staff is seeking direction from Council as to whether the cable operator is in compliance with the intent of the franchise standard.
All Inclusive Pricing – Does the cable operator advertise all-inclusive pricing, which includes the franchise fee?
(City standard) All of the pricing tiers advertised in Cox’s printed materials and on its website include the City’s 5% franchise fee as part of the total price quoted for each package. Staff finds that the cable operator is in compliance with this requirement.
Limited Basic Service – Does the cable operator advertise the fact that a “limited basic” package is available for senior citizens and low-income subscribers? (City standard)
Since the Franchise Renewal, the “limited basic” package has been included on all pricing lists.
Although this information has not been specifically targeted to senior citizen and low-income subscribers, staff feels that because all of Cox’s printed materials and on-line information have been modified in this manner, the intent of the condition has been satisfied.
Complaint Procedure and– Has the cable operator posted information on the reader board regarding the procedure for filing a complaint? (City standard) In May 2004, the cable operator began posting the required information regarding complaint procedures on the Channel 3 Reader Board at the head of the scrolling text for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes. So long as this continues, staff considers these two franchise requirements to be satisfied.
“Must Carry” Stations – Has the cable operator posted information on the reader board regarding “must carry” stations? (City standard) In May 2004, the cable operator began posting the required information regarding “must carry” stations at the head of the scrolling text for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes. So long as this continues, staff considers these two franchise requirements to be satisfied.
CRITIERIA PERFORMANCE COMPLIANCE
Customer Service (continued)
Responding to Messages – Has the cable operator ensured that when a message is taken, or the customer service representative is unable to answer the customer’s questions during the initial contact, the customer will be called back within 24 hours after the call is received?
(City standard) The call center in San Diego has an automated phone system or automated response unit (ARU). However, customers have the option of bypassing the automated system to speak to a live attendant.
Staff is not aware of any instances where the customer did not receive an answer the customer’s question and did not call back within 24 hours.
Service Appointments – Has the cable operator made appointments within 24 hours of a service outage, within three business days for service-related problems for existing customers and within five business days for service installations? These standards must be met no less than 90% of the time under normal operating conditions, measured on a quarterly basis. (City standard) During the first performance audit in January 2003, and at the February 1, 2005 meeting regarding the second performance audit, the cable operator indicated that it has not kept statistics to document compliance with the City’s standard. The cable operator recently provided staff with data for the last two years, which is presented at the end of this report, which indicates that they are in compliance with these standards. Staff finds that the cable operator is in compliance with this requirement.
Customer Complaints – Has the City received a high number of customer complaints?
(City standard) The staff keeps track of all the complaints it receives from residents regarding the cable service and follows up with the cable operator to make sure that the residents receive a response and the issues are resolved. Over the last five years, complaints have dropped from a high of 41 in 1999 to a low of 7 in 2004. Given the fact that Cox Communications serves approximately 72% of the households in Ranchos Palos Verdes, the City receives a very low number of resident complaints each year.
Support of Local Government Programming
Channel 33 – Has the cable operator provided support for the City’s new educational access channel?
(City standard) The cable operator has completed the placement of underground fiber optic cable needed to connect the studio to the cable network head end. The cable operator is in the process of placing the last segment of aerial cable on the City Hall property. Staff will provide an oral update to Council on the status of this item at the meeting.
CRITIERIA PERFORMANCE COMPLIANCE
Support of Local Government Programming (continued)
Community Bulletin Board – Has the cable operator provided a Community Bulletin Board on Channel 12?
(City standard) Beginning in early 2002, the cable operator has provided the community bulletin board service on Channel 12 as stipulated in the Franchise Renewal Agreement. The cable operator produces a half-hour “KCOX 12 Community Calendar” program that airs each day from 11:30 AM to 12:00 noon. Staff finds that the cable operator is in compliance with this requirement.
Technical Performance
Signal Leakage - Has the cable operator met the FCC and FAA requirements concerning Cumulative Leakage Index (CLI) testing?
(Federal standard) Cox has achieved a score of 99.77% in 2003 and in 100% in 2004. A perfect score (100%) means that no CLI was found to exist in the cable network system. Staff finds that the cable operator is in compliance with this requirement.
Back-Up Power Supply – Has the cable operator maintained a reliable back up power supply for its cable network?
(City standard) Cox achieved a reliability index of 99.99870% in 2003 and 99.99827% in 2004, which indicates the “up time” of the cable system per year. Staff finds that the cable operator is in compliance with this requirement.
Emergency Alert System – Has the cable operator continued to maintain an Emergency Alert System (EAS) that exceeds FCC minimum requirements?
(City an Federal standard) The system is capable of sending local emergency messages to its cable television subscribers via “text crawls” at the top of the screen or by overriding audio and/or video. Staff finds that the cable operator is in compliance with this requirement.

CONCLUSION

Staff has initiated the second system performance audit for the 2000 Cable Television Franchise Renewal Agreement with Cox Communications. Staff has found the cable operator to be in compliance with the service appointment standards included in the Franchise Agreement. Staff finds that the cable operator has been able to meet the Service Level % during the month of March 2005, but recommends that the City continue to closely monitor the cable operator’s performance in this area to determine if the improvement will be sustained. Finally, staff is seeking direction from Council as to whether the cable operator’s practice of emailing notifications of changes to its High Speed Internet Acceptable Use Policy to it subscribers meets the intent of the City’s franchise customer service standard which stipulates written noticed mailed within 30 days of the change to the AUP.

FISCAL IMPACT

There is no fiscal impact to the City associated with the system performance audit.

Respectfully submitted:

Carolynn Petru
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk

Reviewed,

Les Evans
City Manager

Attachments:

Service Level % for the 1st Quarter of 2005
Service Appointment Data for the 4th Quarter of 2002 and all of 2003 & 2004