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State Laws/Franchising

Comcast Michigan Tentatively Settles PEG Lawsuit With Four Towns

12/29/2009 2:13 PM Eastern

Comcast's Michigan division has reached an agreement in principle with four towns in the state that had sued over its plan to move public, educational and governmental (PEG) channels to digital-only distribution, under which the cable operator would pay $250,000 to the communities and would continue to carry PEG channels in analog until its entire basic service tier is digital.

The four communities -- Dearborn, Meridian Township, Bloomfield Township and Warren -- sued Comcast in early 2008 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to prevent the move of PEG channels to digital-only format with new channel positions. Comcast had argued the elimination of the analog versions of the channels would free up spectrum for additional services.

Under the settlement, disclosed in a Dec. 23 filing with the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast will continue to offer the PEG channels as part of the "B1" analog basic service tier, which comprises approximately 30 channels depending on community.

"Comcast has worked diligently with the four communities to resolve the dispute and we are pleased that an agreement in principle has been reached to end the litigation," Comcast vice president of public relations Mary Beth Halprin said in a statement. "That agreement will now work its way through the formal approval process of each of the communities."

According to the FCC filing, Meridian Township has agreed to the settlement, while Dearborn, Bloomfield Township and Warren will put the agreement to vote before their city councils and township board in early January.

The $250,000 is to be paid to Meridian Township for distribution to the other plaintiffs as may be agreed between them, according to Bill Irving, assistant corporation counsel for the city of Dearborn. The one-time payment is "not an offset against franchise fees or support for PEG" that Comcast is otherwise required to pay to any of the plaintiffs, Irving noted.

Among other things, under the settlement, Comcast also agrees to not change the current channel placement of PEG channels for two years.

September