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Comcast Seeking Dallas Deregulation

Comcast Corp. is seeking total rate deregulation in a large segment of the Dallas market, according to filings the Philadelphia-based company has made with federal regulators during the past six weeks.

If Comcast is successful, Dallas would lose authority to set basic-cable rates at a time when large cable companies are announcing 2005 rate increases that are not playing well in the national media.

The basic tier includes local TV stations, public-access channels and any cable networks placed there by the cable-system operator.

Comcast lawyers filed for the relief with the Federal Communications Commission Nov. 15, claiming that the necessary legal standards had been met by virtue of vigorous competition from the direct-broadcast satellite industry.

By law, the FCC has the authority to act on Comcast’s petition. The Dallas government, which oversees Comcast’s basic rates, is planning to oppose the company at the FCC, said Nick Fehrenbach, the city’s manager of regulatory affairs and utility franchising.

Comcast’s petition said it should be deregulated in Dallas because the legal standard -- at least 15% DBS penetration -- had been attained. The MSO added that DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp., in fact, had 17.6% household penetration in Dallas.

Dallas is the seventh-largest television market in the country. Comcast has about 500,000 Dallas-area subscribers, with some 136,000 residing within city limits.

The MSO has sought basic-tier deregulation in numerous other Texas communities, FCC records showed.

Recent FCC records also showed that Adelphia Communications Corp. has sought deregulation for numerous systems in Southern California, and that Mediacom Communications Corp. has filed for systems scattered around the Midwest.