City Council to regulate cable service

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2003

Changes are in the works for Selma cable subscribers.

The Selma City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday giving itself powers to regulate basic cable service rates.

Mayor James Perkins Jr. applauded the passage of the ordinance.

Concerning passage of Monday’s ordinance, Perkins added, &uot;In simple terms, Charter Communications and the City of Selma, through City Council action, will have to agree on the basic cable and associated equipment rates offered to citizens within the City of Selma.&uot;

According to City Attorney Jimmy Nunn, the ordinance will become effective no later than Jan. 1, 2004, and possibly sooner.

Nunn said a number of steps must be achieved before complete effectiveness occurs. The city is currently proceeding with notifying all cable operators in Selma that it intends to regulate rates for basic cable service.

According to Nunn, basic cable service costs $12.14 as of two months ago. Basic cable includes channels 2 thru 13.

Within 30 days the city is expected to receive a Federal Communications Commission benchmark, or average cable rate, for Alabama.

If the current rate is below the FCC’s benchmark, it will be capped. Any cable company wishing to raise its rates would have to gain the council’s approval.

If rates exceed the benchmark, they will be reduced. &uot;Everybody should be able to have basic cable at a reasonable price,&uot; Nunn said.

Nunn added that if cable companies balk at reducing their rates, they must justify to the council why rates should remain high.

Perkins said his only regret about the ordinance was that it only applied to the regulation of basic cable rates. He noted, though, that the FCC doesn’t provide a method of regulating services above basic cable.