MI: Comcast Responds to Chairman Dingell, and Just Says ‘No’

Posted on January 15, 2008 - 10:03am.

from: Bloggong Broadband

Comcast Responds to Chairman Dingell, and Just Says ‘No’

From Blogging Broadband, January 14, 2008
By Jon Kreucher

It used to be that a letter from the Chairman of a powerful Congressional committee meant something �” especially if that committee plays a large role in your regulatory future. Those days, however, may be behind us.

On December 21, 2007, Representative John Dingell, Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, wrote to Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts. Chairman Dingell asked Comcast to scrap its plans to digitize and migrate all public, educational, and government (“PEG”) channels in Michigan to the “900” range of Comcast’s lineup. Chairman Dingell’s letter noted that the Congressional intent underlying the positioning of PEG channels was simple: Those channels were intended to be made available to all customers on the lowest-cost basic service tier offered by a cable company. If anyone understands legislative intent in this area, it’s Chairman Dingell �” he’s played a critical role in the development of all cable legislation, even from the days when cable was first regulated by Congress in 1984.

Despite all of this, BloggingBROADBAND predicted that “a collision course with Comcast will probably remain after today’s deadline with Chairman Dingell arrives. The analog bandwidth is too valuable for Comcast to relent, and the company will be unwilling to make the capital investment necessary to maintain the current low-cost, whole house characteristics associated with PEG … because there is no change in the economics of the issues for Comcast, the dispute will continue to develop.” Unfortunately, that is what has now come to pass. Comcast responded to Chairman Dingell very late in the day on January 7, 2008. The company conceded nothing, nor did it substantively address the fundamental objections raised by the Chairman in his December 21, 2007 letter. Comcast’s response to Chairman Dingell can be found here.

Many questions can be launched from Brian Robert’s response. Among them: 1) Is it really true that “Customers who choose to take only our most basic level of service receive all local PEG channels as part of that basic service today, and they will continue to receive those PEG channels on the basic service tier when they are digitized,” as Comcast’s letter to the Chairman asserts? 2) Are hybrid fiber-coax cable systems infinitely expandable, as cable operators suggest, and capable of keeping pace with newer, full-fiber video networks if companies like Comcast need to “reclaim[] the analog spectrum traditionally used for PEG [in order] to offer more high-definition channels, more video on demand, and faster broadband services,” as noted by Comcast’s response? 3) Should cable companies, which use the public’s rights-of-way to deliver their services and to make a profit, be permitted to marginalize their PEG obligations because direct broadcast satellite operators �” which use no public rights-of-way to deliver service �” are not required to carry PEG programming?

These and other questions have to be left for another day �” for now, this dispute is like the snowball rolling downhill: In the near term, it will only get bigger.

( categories: Comcast | MICHIGAN | State Franchises )