Dingell Asks Comcast To Rethink PEG Policy


House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell has asked top cable operator Comcast to rethink moving public, educational and government (PEG) channels to the digital tier in some Michigan communities.

Dingell (D-Mich.) called "very troubling" news that some of his constituents and other Michiganders aregoing to have to install a set-top box and eventually pay a monthly fee if they want to receive the PEG channels.

In a letter to Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts Friday, Dingell said he was concerned about what he said was Comcast's decision to move the PEG channels in Ann Arbor and Dearborn to the digital tier as of Jan. 15, 2008. "Comcast’s analog subscribers will then need a set-top box to be able to view PEG channels, he said, asking Comcast to "reconsider this decision."

While Comcast will make one set-top per household free for the first year, after that they will "apparently" have to pay a fee. "Your intent to charge consumers as much as an additional $4.20 a month per television set to receive PEG channels is plainly inconsistent with Congressional intent that PEG channels be made available 'at the lowest reasonable rate,' he said, pointing out to Roberts that he was one of the principal authors of the the portion of the Communications Act that requires cable operators to carry the channels "on the basic tier and at the lowest reasonable rate."

"In light of these concerns, please inform this Committee in writing by January 7, 2008, as to how Comcastplans to proceed in a manner that is consistent with the Congressional intent and protects the public interest," he said.

Comcast said it was willing to work with Dingell on the issue, but wasn't backing down.

“We appreciate the Chairman's concerns and look forward to working with him regarding this issue," the company said in a statement. "The majority of our Michigan customers enjoy our advanced digital programming today.  With the proposed changes, Michigan customers will be able to access Public, Education & Government (PEG) programming in uniform channel locations across the state, receive those channels in a high-quality digital format, and see even more programming variety, such as new HD channels.  Most of our competitors, including satellite companies and AT&T either do not carry PEG programming or require consumers to have digital boxes to receive it.”