MI: Comcast got what it bargained for

Posted on January 25, 2008 - 5:14pm.

from: Ann Arbor News

Comcast got what it bargained for
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Comcast, having benefited richly over decades from its cable television monopoly in Michigan communities, should feel compelled to give something of value back.

Not much has been asked, although one small concession historically from Comcast to this community and others has been a public access channel for locally produced programming, which are generally broadcast on channels on the low end of the spectrum.

No more, says Comcast, which wants to relegate public access to 900 numbers instead, freeing up the more convenient lower channels for customers paying premium rates for exclusive programming.

It seems an arrogant slight, an insult from which advocates for keeping the traditional and more user-friendly access have won relief from federal and state courts, at least temporarily. Additional help could be on the way as U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, prepares to hold hearings on Comcast's legal obligations vis-a-vis public, educational and government access (PEG).

Public access is relied on by communities to share information about events and to air government proceedings in their entirety. Comcast should take pride in keeping that access within easy reach of its subscribers.

As to the 900 channel switch, not only is it far more obscure, but for many subscribers it's out of reach or unaffordable. Accessing a 900 channel would force those still using analog TV sets to either buy a digital, cable-ready set, or rent or buy a digital converter box for each set they use. Some subscribers who pay the lowest rates available do not receive 900 channels.

So Comcast has gotten what it bargained for - lawsuits, congressional hearings, a proposed customer boycott and a protest by the Producers Association, composed of local programmers.

May Comcast take the strong message to heart and remember that its great advantages should come with a tip of the hat to the people who have granted them.

The Flint Journal

( categories: Comcast | MICHIGAN | State Franchises )