Hearing on Comcast Cable slated for Wednesday

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BENNINGTON — A public hearing Wednesday night — one of 12 across the state to take place at the same time via teleconference — will collect the public's testimony on the state's largest cable provider.

And the local community access television channel says the public should speak up, noting they won't have another chance for a decade.

The hearing on Comcast Cable will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Senior Center, 124 Pleasant St.

"It's an opportunity for people to voice any displeasure with the service, any compliments and to voice how Comcast Cable has been treating their customers in Vermont," Catamount Access Television (CAT-TV) Operations Manager William Gardner said Wednesday.

The Public Service Board (PSB) called the hearing for the company's renewal of a Certificate of Public Good, the contract which allows the company to do business in Vermont. Comcast has a certificate that expires in December 2016. A new certificate would be good for 11 years.

The hearing will collect testimony from across the state using Vermont Interactive Technologies Sites in 12 other cities and towns, including Brattleboro, Middlebury and Rutland.

In 2010, Comcast had 113,213 subscribers in Vermont, or 81 percent of the total cable market, according to data from the PSB.

Gardner said his organization is advocating the cable company continue to fund and carry public access television and to also make upgrades.

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"We understand that the way media is being consumed is changing, and we need to really push for some of these things," Gardner said.

He said the station is currently only broadcasting in standard definition (SD), despite Comcast having high definition (HD) capability. And unlike nationally syndicated channels, CAT-TV and other public access stations are not listed in the interactive, on screen guide which shows a program's description, he said.

"That's something we've been fighting for many years and we've been told it can't happen," he said. "But we're not satisfied with that answer."

The process is the PSB — a Vermont entity which supervises the rates, quality and overall financial management of public utilities — carrying out its "due diligence," Gardner said, "making sure someone who is a big player in the state is doing what they should be doing."

He said individuals, in addition to voicing concerns about service, can also state their opinion on the cable provider's rates.

CAT-TV — Comcast Cable channels 15, 16 and 17 — is one of 26 "Public, Educational, & Government Access" channels in the state. They are primarily funded by cable companies like Comcast Cable, an obligation imposed by the PSB.

CAT-TV, a non-profit organization, covers Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford. Community members can take classes to become certified to use state-of-the-art video, lighting, sound and editing equipment to produce their own programming. The channel also broadcasts government meetings.

Written comments can be submitted to the PSB no later than Nov. 1. Any comments, referencing Docket No. 8301, should be sent by mail to Susan Hudson, clerk of the board, Vermont Public Service Board, 112 State St., Montpelier, 05620-2701, or email at psb.clerk@vermont.gov.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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