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Public Utility Commission Denies Latest Request By Comcast Over Community TV Requirements

A dispute between Comcast and the state's public access TV stations could be headed to court.Comcast is required to support local community television in its certificate of public good, and the state put new requirements in the company's 11-year state permit when it was issued earlier this year.

The company asked the Public Utility Commission to drop those conditions but the commission last week denied the motion.

“We are disappointed the VT Public Utility Commission chose to deny our motion for important amendments necessary to fairly compete in Vermont," Comcast spokeswoman Kristen Roberts said Monday. "We are still reviewing the order and have not yet determined our next steps.”

Comcast supports 22 public access station across Vermont.

The state says Comcast should include local programs on its program guide, and extend its cable system into underserved areas.

Comcast is required to build out 550 miles of cable line extensions over the next 11 years. The company says the schedule would force cable rates to go up, and they say the state didn't consider the financial impact in its ruling.

Comcast was also debating a stipulation that requires it to provide additional sites around Vermont that would allow live remote broadcasts.

Lisa M. Byer is executive director of Catamount Access Television in Bennington, and a member of the Vermont Access Network, or VAN, which is the advocacy group for the state's public access stations.

She says the ruling will help all of the stations that are served on the Comcast network.

"We are obviously very pleased with the Commission's decision to deny Comcast's motion," Byer said. "The order strongly supports VAN's arguments and will go a long way in preserving public access television in our Vermont communities."

The Public Service Board put the conditions into the company's new certificate of public good and if Comcast wants to continue its fight it will have to do so in court.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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