PEG Channels Singled Out for Discriminatory Treatment in Missouri

American Community Television (ACT) and the Missouri Municipal League filed comments with the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) in its “Report to the General Assembly” regarding developments resulting from the implementation of the 2007 Video Services Providers Act.

In their comments, two areas were highlighted, the treatment of Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television channels and consumer complaints. Saying that PEG channels have been singled out for discriminatory treatment in Missouri by Charter and Mediacom, the comments included examples of channel slamming in St. Peters, Cape Girardeau, Springfield and St. Louis.  In those communities, PEG channels have been slammed into the 900′s or been moved out of the basic tier and are inaccessible to subscribers unless they purchase additional tiers of service or additional equipment.

“It’s a violation of federal law,” said Bunnie Riedel, Executive Director of ACT.   “The Telecommunications Act clearly states that PEG channels are a part of the minimum contents of the basic tier of service, Charter and Mediacom are in violation of that law.”

The comments highlight the fact that in Kansas City, Time Warner has kept the government access television on channel 2 and it recently sent a letter to all Texas municipalities that it would “channel map” the access channels to their current position even while migrating all channels to the digital tier.

“Charter and Mediacom have the same technical capability as Time Warner,” said Riedel, “The only reason they have slammed the access channels into the 900′s and to inaccessible tiers is they are hostile to PEG access and they could care less about our local communities.”

In addition to the PEG issues, the comments addressed consumer complaints.  The PSC reported in its draft that it had only received 4 complaints in the past year.  ACT conducted a quick survey of municipalities and found that in a state the size of Missouri at least 1,200 consumer complaints would be registered in any given month.

“Cable customers in Missouri are not being protected,” said Riedel.  “The purpose of the legislation was to bring cable competition and to lower prices.  Even the PSC admits this has not happened, saying that prices have either remained the same or have gone up.  Meanwhile consumers have taken it on the chin.”

ACT called on state legislators to amend the law to protect PEG access television and consumers.

“What they should do is realize it hasn’t worked and repeal it,” said Riedel.

To read the comments go to http://www.acommunitytv.org/actnow/troubleinthestates.html or contact Bunnie Riedel at riedel@acommunitytv.org or call 410-992-4976.

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