Cable competition could cost city

Sandusky also worried about multiplying cable lines, no control over losing service SANDUSKY Cable and competition rar
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

Sandusky also worried about multiplying cable lines, no control over losing service

SANDUSKY

Cable and competition rarely go hand-in-hand.

But they could be, much to Sandusky's chagrin.

Commissioners received a correspondence urging the city to send a letter of non-support to proposed state legislation that would take local franchising rights away and give them to the state.

The city stands to lose about $40,000 in revenue -- one quarter of 1 percent of the $16 million expected in revenue.

"Any nickel we lose as a city, is one more place we have to find to make it up," Commissioner Craig Stahl said.

The bill would allow current agreements, like Buckeye CableSystem agreement with the city to continue until its expiration date, but would prohibit the renewal of the agreement.

The proposed legislation would put franchising rights in the hands of the director of state commerce.

Proponents say it will create competition driving prices downward. Opponents say it give cable companies carte blanche on where to put cable boxes and where to do business and where to not provide service.

"It's all kinds of competition with a lot less control," Don Icsman, city law director told commissioners.

Icsman said competition is good, but the concern is right-of-way agreements -- where cable lines can be run and boxes placed.

"They could put up a whole litany of those big ugly green boxes," Stahl said.

Stahl believes they should honor the deals brokered by past commissioners and that means honoring the deal with Buckeye and not supporting the bill.

Brett Fuqua, the commissioner who brought the letter to the commission's attention for discussion, said he doesn't want anyone to misunderstand -- he's pro- competition, but this kind of competition takes away local rights and doesn't seem fair.

The commissioners haven't decided whether they will send a letter in response to the bill, but are investigating just how it will affect Sandusky.

Cable conundrum

The issue: Deregulating local franchise rights, allowing the state to control cable franchising

The significance: A change could mean more competition, but less local control, equaling potentially lower cable bills, but little control of complaints, problems, and right-of- way issues. The city of Sandusky would lose franchise revenue.

The next step: The Senate bill deregulating franchising rights is in committee and if voted through committee will be voted on by Ohio senators.