If you don't like the way your cable company does business in California, speak up now

7 September 2014 by Steve Blum
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If local governments, advocacy groups and ordinary citizens want to challenge a cable or telephone company’s right to offer video services under statewide authority granted by the California Public Utilities Commission it can be done, but not while a company is trying to renew its franchise.

That was message from several commissioners – Carla Peterman, Mike Florio and Catherine Sandoval – as they reluctantly voted on 28 August 2014 to approval a video franchise renewal process that all but shuts out any opportunity for public scrutiny or challenge.

As Florio put it, that’s what the law they’re operating under requires…

Frankly, I don’t much like this legislation but that’s what we have to live with and it does constrain our ability to consider very much of anything in these renewal applications. I don’t really see much option other than to continue as we have. But there are some other opportunities for parties outside of the renewal process and I would encourage folks to pursue as necessary.

The commission’s in-house advocacy arm, the office of ratepayer advocates, will be able to review confidential documents submitted by cable companies at renewal time and offer comments. But unless a final, non-appealable court order is in place – something that would have started years before – there’s little that can be done.

Likewise, local governments and members of the public can object on the basis of a final court order, but that judicial process has to come first. In other words, you need to object well before renewal time. Which is something Peterman urged anyone concerned to do…

I do strongly encourage all local governments and stakeholders to utilise the existing proper channels to reach out and to raise concerns you have about some of the providers. I appreciate that it’s not perfect, but if you don’t bring that information forward to us, either through letters or through requests for investigation, we won’t be aware of any issues that you’re facing.

The vote to approve the new statewide video franchise renewal process was unanimous.