Comcast’s bid to drop public access channels rejected by Vermont Public Utility Commission

Comcast Center headquarters in Philadelphia. Image: Comcast
Image: Comcast

A dispute between Comcast and the Vermont Public Utility Commission tied to the operator’s franchise renewal agreement could be headed to court. 

According to Vermont Public Radio, Comcast had asked that requirements tied to the renewal of its 11-year franchise agreement, carved out earlier this year, be taken off the table. This includes a mandate that Comcast support and carry 22 community access channels, as well as build out 550 miles of network expansion over the next 11 years.

Comcast is also resisting a mandate that it provide sites in the Vermont area that allow for live broadcasts. 

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

Responded Lisa Byer, executive director of of Catamount Access Television in Bennington, Vermont, and a member of the Vermont Access Network (VAN), an advocacy group supporting public access broadcasting: "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.”

Comcast will have to take the Public Utility Commission to court if it wants to continue the battle.