I want my traffic channel
BRECKENRIDGE – Perhaps the most riveting Breckenridge-area cable television show ever produced – live traffic pictures of Interstate 70 – went off the air recently – but only temporarily.For a short period, Channel 19 was blank. Producer Michael Orlowski said the traffic shots will return soon, after an equipment upgrade to improve the video is installed.As any channel surfer can attest, those shots of traffic the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) provided to the public sure were missed. No kidding. The CDOT cams show traffic flows at strategic spots from Copper Mountain to Idaho Springs.Even we locals, when we aren’t mesmerized by the traffic cams as an idle pastime, actually use the channel to judge how smart it would be to venture onto the interstate. Or we check it out to advise friends or family coming up from Denver.The traffic channel debuted last ski season with support from the town of Breckenridge and the ski resort as a way for day skiers to learn if they’d rather sit in their cars on the interstate or shop, dine or eat on Main Street.Orlowski said the idea was his, and he arranged for the high-speed T1 line to bring the CDOT images to Breckenridge and Channel 19.The Breckenridge video production entrepreneur said the T1 line costs him $1,400 a month. To date, he’s sunk $75,000 into the traffic show, considering time, equipment and T1 costs.The investment, he hopes, is a lead-up to making the channel self-supporting – at least – by allowing sponsorship-type advertising on the screen.How to pay for the traffic channel has been a simmering Breckenridge issue. Alison and Matthew Palmer, who run the Channel 13 visitors channel, thought they should have been given a shot at the traffic cams. That slowed things down for a while.In its wisdom, the town council decided that whatever happened, it wanted the traffic shots to be continual – uninterrupted by programming or ads.Orlowski’s wish is to keep the pictures continual but to run sponsorship ads or other paid messages as vertical or horizontal sidebars to the main screen.Just to show that no good idea should be easy, now AT&T Broadband, the cable company that bought Classic Cable, entered the fray. As of Monday, AT&T Broadband became part of Philadelphia-based Comcast. So now we have a new name in the picture.AT&T’s original contention was that it owns Channel 19, and it didn’t want to assign it to the town as a so-called public, education and government (PEG) channel. In cable TV franchise language, that means a grassroots local channel for public access programming, schools and government. In other communities, PEG channels are used to broadcast local government meetings, public events such as parades and forums such as the Colorado Mountain College-Keystone Center series.AT&T said the town could have channel 74 as a PEG channel for the CDOT shots. But – and that’s a big but – it didn’t want advertising on it.Town Manager Tim Gagen said attorneys are debating the matter. Who knows what the Comcast takeover will do. The company could take an even tougher stance, given its need to generate cash and reduce debt.Orlowski thinks channel 74, up on the high band, hurts the CDOT programming and that the public will clamor for it to be back on a lower band.That isn’t the only complication with the CDOT programming. Now, RSN-TV wants a piece of the action.New RSN station manager Massey Pitts is working on a plan to broadcast the CDOT pictures on one of the two channels (3 and 10) RSN takes up on the Breckenridge-area cable system. The plan is to run CDOT shots four times an hour and other programming and advertising around it, she said.If the choice is Channel 10, that raises another interesting question.Channel 10 is Breckenridge’s designated PEG channel. The town lets RSN use it because the town isn’t set up to produce PEG programming.The question for Comcast is: Why can Channel 10 currently carry advertising, for the benefit of RSN, but Channel 74 can’t run advertising?The old AT&T local government executive based in the Denver metro area did not return phone calls Friday or Monday to offer enlightenment.It’s hard to tell if she still might be there. Comcast said it will be cutting 1,700 jobs at what once was AT&T Broadband’s corporate headquarters in Englewood.Stay tuned.Jim Pokrandt can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 227, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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