Janesville57.8°

State agency staying out of cable TV dispute

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 19, 2008

A state consumer-protection agency says it canít help with complaints about Charter Communicationsí plans to move public-access TV channels to its digital tier.


Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection on July 25 after Charter announced its plans to move channels such as Janesvilleís JATV from Channel 12 to Channel 993.


A reply to Robson from DATCP Secretary Rod Nilsestuen suggests that itís up to legislators to change the law if they want the state to take action.


The state association of public, educational or governmentóPEGóchannels also protested Charterís proposed change. The Wisconsin Association of PEG Access Channels said the change would reduce their viewership and burden people who donít have digital TVs.


People with analog TVs would have to rent a Charter converter box to continue seeing the PEG channels.


Charter postponed the change after the PEG association protested but has not set a date for the change.


Critics have said that Charterís move would force people into digital TV when most arenít ready to make the change. Charter countered that most of its customers already have the needed digital technology built into their sets or already rent a conversion box.


Nilsestuen wrote to Robson that recent legislation governing cable TV removed local municipalitiesí authority to negotiate agreements with cable providers but did not assign regulatory authority to any state agency.


Nilsestuen noted that Gov. Jim Doyle has ďurged the Legislature to review this issue and consider follow-up legislation to address any remaining concerns.Ē


Nilsestuen said that as matters stand, his department has authority only if the complaint were about sales or billing practices, or if Charter failed to give the required 25-day notice for certain kinds of changes to its service.


Robson said in a news release that the situation shows the need for legislation to correct the shortcomings of the cable TV deregulation bill.


Charter informed customers recently that it would make some channel lineup changes starting this Wednesday. They are:


-- Adding FSN-WI in HD, on Channel 761.


-- Moving WBUW-TV/Madisonís CW to Channel 2.


-- Moving SoapNet to Channel 82 on the Expanded, digital-only level of service.


-- Moving TV Guide to Channel 99 on the Basic digital-only level of service.



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