Comcast Settlement Protects and Expands PEG Access Television in Vermont
Following more than two years of legal wrangling, Vermont’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) today finalized conditions of Comcast’s Certificate of Public Good (CPG), enabling the state’s largest cable operator to continue its delivery of cable television service across the State, while providing public benefits such as line extensions and protections for Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) Access.
The conditions of the “amended, renewed, and consolidated” CPG were set out in a recently mediated Settlement agreement between Comcast, the Department of Public Service (DPS), and the Vermont Access Network (VAN), which represents 25 community media centers that operate public, educational, and government access channels in Comcast service territories. The PUC has adopted the conditions of that Settlement in its amended CPG Order.
Lisa Byer, Chair of VAN’s Regulatory Committee, commented that “The amended CPG reflects a carefully considered Settlement, negotiated with Comcast and the DPS over the past several months. We’ve reached meaningful compromises and settled several outstanding issues which will better position us to meet community communications needs over the next decade.”
As reflected in the proposed amendments to the Renewal CPG, the parties Settlement terms now require Comcast to:
- Construct a minimum of 350 miles of additional lines of cable during the full term of the Renewal CPG
- Maintain existing PEG remote origination sites and provide reasonable accommodations in support of any AMO request for a new site and support of alternative means of providing remote origination sites
- Provide a single, statewide HD channel by January 1, 2021, and extend the time for AMOs to request additional high definition ("HD") PEG channels.
The Settlement contained in the CPG also provides for reassignment of Comcast's Vermont PEG channels to a dedicated PEG neighborhood enabling them to be listed with individual listings and full functionality on all programming guides and additional funding support for the PEG channel reassignments and equipment needs associated with the statewide HD PEG channel.
Approval of the proposed amendments to the Renewal CPG will effectuate the parties' Settlement and result in the dismissal of Comcast's pending federal litigation. The amended Renewal CPG is intended to serve the public interests identified in the PUC’s initial January 13, 2017 Order.
Byer added, “This settlement is the result of many months of work by VAN, Comcast and the Department of Public Service, and incorporates true compromises by all parties to bring this matter to a close. We have made progress on several key points, especially PEG channel inclusion in the Interactive Program Guide (IPG) which will bring our channels in line with current television viewing habits. We are also proud that the settlement provides a clearer path for providing PEG channels both with HD capability as well as the maintenance and upkeep of remote origination sites. We believe that the terms of this settlement will greatly benefit cable subscribers and community members in Comcast service territories. We look forward to refocusing our attention on providing the best PEG programming consistent with the needs and interests of our diverse communities.”
More information about PEG channel reassignments and other changes will be available soon.