The City Council passed an expanded cable television ordinance Tuesday, despite protests from the city's major provider of cable television service.
The new ordinance replaces one the council passed in July, which dealt primarily with consumer practices. The new cable television ordinance details regulatory practices for multi-channel service providers, including liability insurance coverage, reports and records such companies must keep, consumer protection measures, franchise fees and alternative user charges and operation procedures.A consulting firm, Municom, recommended Provo adopt the ordinance after reviewing the city's cable system and the operating practices of TCI Cablevision of Utah Inc., the major cable company in Provo. Municom has guaranteed Provo that the new ordinance is legally sound.
The council discussed the ordinance in its study session and then took action on it during its regular meeting.
"We're telling citizens of Provo with this ordinance there are certain things that they can expect out of their cable company . . . and those things are not negotiable," said Mayor Joe Jenkins.
Jenkins urged the council to pass the ordinance, knowing it may need additional tinkering in the future, so the city can proceed with franchise negotiations with TCI.
TCI submitted a 10-page letter to the council outlining concerns it has with the ordinance. Dan McCarty, general manager for TCI in Utah, asked the council to delay action on the ordinance until TCI could meet with Municom and city staff to try to come to a consenus "about what makes sense to everyone."
McCarty said the cable company has constitutional questions about some provisions in the new ordinance. He said he was unaware of a similar ordinance in use in the country.
"When it comes time to do an arms-length negotiation between the company and the city, there are going to be some major stingers we are going to want out of there," McCarty said.
Among the concerns TCI listed in its letter to the council are:
- The extensive amount of record keeping required, which will add "to the cost of doing business, which ultimately must be passed on to the customer."
- A provision to exempt from the ordinance some providers with few subscribers or serving certain dwellings.
- The excessive amount of liability insurance companies must carry.
- A provision that the company provide customers with a programming guide.
- Certain provisions dealing with franchise fees.
The council was unswayed by TCI's arguments, however.
Council member Barbara Smith, prior to making a motion to adopt the ordinance, said it "answers or addresses many of the concerns brought up by citizens. I think it is a good ordinance."
The council adopted the ordinance unanimously.