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MI: Adrian, Michigan Files Complaint Against Comcast

By saveaccess
Created 09/27/2007 - 7:02am

from: Blogging Broadband [1]

Adrian, Michigan Files Complaint Against Comcast

It’s been almost nine months since Michigan’s “Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act” became effective. The third complaint under that new law was filed by the City of Adrian, Michigan late last week.

Although anxiety has been building for some time over the positions being taken by Comcast, Adrian’s complaint was the first to be filed under the new law against the nation’s dominant cable company. According to the pleading, Comcast’s actions violated at least two sections of the new statute. First, Comcast allegedly represented to the Michigan Public Service Commission that the City had taken no action on the company’s Uniform Franchise application in the first 30 days, and, therefore, that the Uniform Franchise had been approved by operation of law. According to the City, however, a finding had been made that Comcast’s application was incomplete — Comcast simply ignored the conclusion and represented the matter differently to the MPSC.

Second, Adrian’s lawsuit contends that Comcast should pay some portion of its gross revenues (above the 5% franchise fee) in support of public, education and government access programming. While the new law appears to be clear on the matter (at least as clear as any other section . . .), Comcast has nevertheless taken the position that no support of PEG programming is necessary. The City has requested that “[a]n Order be entered requiring Comcast to pay an appropriate PEG fee as may be determined by the Public Service Commission.”

Some concern has been voiced among municipalities that the MPSC favors the video providers’ perspectives in these matters. This is an opportunity for the Commission to put those concerns to rest. For example, Michigan’s new statute is unambiguous with respect to a video provider’s representation as to whether action has been taken on its Uniform Franchise. A franchise can only be considered by the video provider to be approved “[i]f the franchising entity does not notify the provider regarding the completeness of the franchise agreement [within 30 days] .

. .” Here, Adrian apparently provided timely notice to Comcast that its Uniform Franchise was incomplete. If Comcast disagreed with that conclusion, the time to object arose when the company received notice of the city’s conclusion — there’s nothing in the law that allows the company to ignore that city’s determination and make a contrary representation to the Commission. The same holds true for PEG fees. Minimally, the law provides for the payment of the same PEG fee as a community received in its existing franchise. Adrian notes that grants of equipment were provided in that franchise, but that no provision for the payment of any PEG fee was made by Comcast in its Uniform Franchise application.

Click here for a copy of Adrian’s Complaint

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