Cities, county challenge Charter

Sparks Tribune


The cities of Reno, Sparks and Carson City, along with Washoe County, have filed an opposition to a Charter Communications petition that could lead to deregulation.

Charter has filed a demonstration of equal competition petition with the Federal Communications Commission. That petition, if approved, would exempt the company from state and local regulation
To demonstrate equal competition, Charter must show that 15 percent or more of the residences in the coverage area receive their television services from a different multi-channel video programming distributor.

Charter has argued that two satellite dish services - Direct TV, Inc. and EchoStar Communications - each have 15 percent of the market. City officials like David Creekman with the Sparks city attorney's office aren't buying it.

"We are questioning the validity of the statistics on which Charter relied," he said. "We want to make sure that there really is equal competition."

That's why the cities and county joined together to file an opposition in response to Charter's claim. In fact, the cities are challenging all of the numbers Charter used in their assessment.

"We're questioning all of the figures," Creekman said. "The number of subscribers, residences, the whole nine yards."

If the petition is approved, Creekman said it would be possible for Charter to charge people different prices from the same services. For example, customers on one side of Sparks could be charged more than people on the other side of Sparks for the same cable packages.

There could also be cable packages offered to one group of customers but not the other.

"That's the effect of not being under local control," Creekman said.

The cities would continue to receive franchise fees from Charter even if the petition is approved.

It is unclear when the FCC will rule on the petition.


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