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Comcast to Apologize to Congress on PEG Maneuver

WASHINGTON – In a contrite statement, Comcast Corp. executive vice president David Cohen is planning to apologize to a House subcommittee Tuesday afternoon for fumbling a plan that required thousands of Michigan subscribers to obtain at least one digital set-top box to view local public, educational, and government (PEG) channels.

"In retrospect, we failed to communicate adequately our goals and to work cooperatively with our local partners to produce a `win' for everyone. This is not the way we want to do business – in Michigan or in the rest of the country – and I want to apologize for that," Cohen is planning to say, according to a copy of his testimony obtained Monday by Multichannel News.

Cohen is scheduled to testify before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

Comcast's plan to move PEG channels to digital would have affected about 40% of its 1.3 million Michigan customers.

Local officials and House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) became upset because Comcast offered to provide each household one free digital set-top but later start to charge about $4.20 per month for the device.

Comcast also planned to charge $4.20 per month immediately for each additional set-top needed to view PEG channels. On Jan. 14, a federal judge in Michigan blocked Comcast from going forward.

While Cohen's testimony had a conciliatory tone, he stressed that the entire planet is going digital and that Comcast is trying to reclaim analog capacity in a manner that did not inconvenience customers. Although Comcast is taking heat now for moving PEG channels to digital, it might find itself being criticized at some point for keeping PEG as an analog service, Cohen says in his testimony.

"Frankly, if we do not deliver PEG programming in digital format, it will not be long before PEG programmers complain about being abandoned in an analog wasteland," Cohen's testimony says.