Federal Judge Grants VT Access Network Status in Comcast Case Against the Public Utility Commission

February 09, 2018

Judge Geoffrey Crawford of the U.S. District Court has granted Vermont Access Network (VAN) intervenor status in Comcast’s challenge to the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) Docket 8301 Order that put specific conditions on Comcast’s continued operation in Vermont. VAN represents Vermont’s the twenty five public, educational, and government access management organizations, that operate more than 75 community based cable TV channels. In June 2017, the Vermont PUC ruled that Comcast must provide Vermont’s access operations with access to modern features of the cable network, including access to the interactive program guide, more community drops for live programming, high definition channels, and statewide network capacity. The PUC also ordered Comcast to extend lines to certain rural communities of Vermont. Comcast filed suit against the PUC ruling in Fall 2017, declaring that the State of Vermont did not have the authority to set these conditions. The Company also opposed VAN’s intervention in the federal case. Judge Crawford disagreed with Comcast and supported VAN’s arguments and intervention on February 8th, saying: Obviously VAN-like many similar non-profits engaged in advocacy on public issues-takes a lively interest in the outcome of the litigation. Since its membership of public access stations lack their own broadcast or cable networks, these stations depend on networks maintained by cable operators like Comcast to reach their viewers. Any change in the conditions under which Comcast must carry their programming affects them greatly. This lawsuit was prompted by changes in those conditions as they are set out in the new VPUC franchise order. VAN clearly has an interest in this action that may be impaired by the disposition of this case, particularly if Comcast succeeds on the merits of its appeal. (Case No. 5:l 7-cv-161) For more information, contact Lisa Byer, VAN Public Policy Chair, 802-442-8868 lisa [at] catamountaccess [dot] com