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Dingell Praises Comcast For PEG Flexibility

House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) Tuesday afternoon saluted Comcast Corp. for its willingness to reach a compromise with local governments in Michigan on the carriage of public, educational, governmental channels. Comcast, for its part, affirmed it was not discriminating against PEG channels.

“I am pleased that Comcast, which had announced changes detrimental to the way it delivers PEG services in Michigan, has agreed to make a good-faith effort to work out a settlement with the affected communities,” Dingell said at a House hearing on the subject. “I want to commend them for that.”

Two weeks ago, a federal judge in Michigan blocked Comcast from moving PEG channels to its digital lineup, requiring about 40% of its 1.3 million Michigan customers to acquire digital set-top boxes to view PEG channels.

Comcast offered each household one free set-top for the first year, but it planned on charging up to $4.20 per month for the box later on and charge immediately for any additional boxes requested. Dingell and local Michigan officials were troubled that Comcast was making it more expensive for consumers to view local fare aired on PEG channels. 

Comcast executive vice president David Cohen, testifying before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, said the No. 1 cable company in the country wanted talks with Dearborn and other Michigan townships to yield a positive outcome. 

“I am pleased to say that we are now engaged in friendly, and what I am sure ultimately will be fruitful, discussions with local government officials in Michigan …” Cohen said. 

Comcast, Cohen said, was attempting to make the best use of limited channel capacity as the company gradually transitions from being a hybrid analog-digital platform to an all-digital services provider, just like the video networks of AT&T and Verizon and the satellite TV services of DirecTV and Dish Network. 

“Today’s intensively competitive video environment compels cable operators to offer PEG channels in a digital format,” Cohen said. “Our major competitors are already all-digital and they widely tout that fact in their consumer marketing.”

The migration to digital, he added, would in the end sweep in all channels, not just PEG stations. 

“I want to clearly state that we are not discriminating against PEG channels,” Cohen said.