Posted By: Nick Miller, Partner, Miller & Van Eaton
The Congress approved a delay in the Digital Television Conversion from February until June 12, 2009. This additional time has allowed the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to enhance and restructure the federal government’s consumer outreach programs.
Among the good news items:
The story is not over—but the trends are finally positive.
And please do your part by sharing this Consumers’ Union public education package with your electeds, agencies and local media: CLICK HERE for the PDF
Posted By: Nick Miller, Partner, Miller & Van Eaton
The economic news for local governments and their attorneys has not been good. Big time cutbacks in local budgets have forced major changes in the law offices advising local governments. In the midst of this economic detritus, some good news is emerging.
Much like the middle income families that can now afford to buy houses that are in foreclosure, City Attorney offices may now have the chance to attract and hold some of the very best new lawyers graduating this June. We all know the big law firms have driven associate salaries far beyond government salare levels and the big firms have thereby discouraged many young attorneys from pursuing public service careers. Now the economy is forcing the large firms to change their hiring patterns. And the door may be opening for government law offices to compete on equal footing for this young talent.
Recent news headlines on law firms have focused on the tragedy of job losses and personal tragedies among recently fired attorneys. This is grim, heart-rending news. But underneath these headlines is a less reported trend. The biggest firms are changing their offers to third year law students and first year attorneys. They are deferring start dates for new attorneys, in many cases until January 2010 or even June 2010. And they are rolling back associate starting salaries to levels comparable to the late 1990’s.
This change offers City Attorneys the chance to compete more equally for this talent pool. Local government law has always had the attractive qualities of public service, challenging and wide ranging legal issues, and family-friendly working hours. To this list can now be added competitive compensation, and a chance to try public service before stepping into 2400 hours/year work environs.
The salary picture is better for three reasons. Associate salaries are being rolled back o levels comparable to the late 1990’s. Also most of the large firms are offering to pay the deferred attorneys some portion (often 50%) of the normal first year salary in return for accepting the delayed start date. And the over-enrollment of attorneys in the big firms means many firms will not object if a first year attorney decides to not pursue the big firm job, even after accepting the deferred compensation for several months.
So now is the time to reach out to your local law school placement offices. And reach out to your colleagues in larger firms. Tell them you are looking to help June graduates or 2008 deferred graduates find useful legal work.
Posted By: Joesph Van Eaton, Partner, Miller & Van Eaton, PLLC
AT&T’s entry into the video market has not been smooth. Unlike Verizon, which is building fiber to the home, AT&T is by and large upgrading its old copper wire system so that it can be used to provide video. Its design required it to place refrigerator-sized cabinets throughout communities – a move that forced many communities to develop new siting standards (it didn’t help that some of the cabinets exploded).
Now two challenges have been filed at the Federal Communications Commission, claiming that manner in which AT&T provides public, educational and government access violates the law. One challenge was filed by the City of Lansing, Michigan. A more detailed challenge was filed by a consortium of organizations that promote access, community colleges, local governments, and local government organizations. The lead petitioner is the Alliance for Community Media (“ACM”). The petition was filed by the law firm of Spiegel & McDiarmid.
As the ACM petition points out, AT&T does not really provide PEG channels. It provides what it calls a PEG “application” or “platform.” The PEG application does not function like a normal, commercial channel on the AT&T system: AT&T cannot pass through closed captioning for example. One of the reasons some community colleges joined in the FCC petition was because they are required to deliver programming with closed captioning. AT&T won’t deliver secondary audio signals (used to deliver programming in a second language) on PEG channels. A viewer cannot surf between commercial and PEG channels; PEG channels can’t be recorded while viewing another channel. There are significant quality issues as well. The FCC will now decide whether these deficiencies violate federal law.
The ACM petition raises only federal claims. More challenges may be on the way: the Illinois Attorney General has announced that AT&T provision of PEG access is under investigation by the state. Many communities could raise (and are considering raising) independent claims under state laws. Lansing filed a state court claim at the same time it filed its FCC claim.
These cases are serious, and at the very least should raise a red flag for attorneys in communities that plan to provide access programming to AT&T systems. It will be important to review any programming arrangements carefully to be sure that rights are not lost.