October 30, 2009 1:06 PM
Gary Hebl has the right idea. The State Assembly Democrat from Sun Prairie is working on legislation to reverse some of the worst parts of the awful cable deregulation bill passed last session.
That terrible bill, pushed by industry lobbyists, was supposed to result in more competition that would lower our cable TV bills. But there's no evidence that that has happened. In fact, a recent study found that cable bills have gone up about 28% in the few years since the bill passed.
The direct issue for city government is that the legislation also phased out the Public, Education and Government (PEG) fees that helped fund our Madison City Channel. City Channel has become an important service to keep government open and honest. All of the meetings of the city's most important committees are covered by City Channel and citizens can access the archives going back for years. If the PEG fees paid by the cable companies go away as planned in 2011, it creates about a $250,000 hole in our City Channel budget. Either that gap will have to be made up by taxpayers or coverage will have to be cut.
The better solution is Rep. Hebl's bill. Reinstate the PEG fees and keep public access to public decision-making.
Now, if all that alleged competition would lower my cable bill, that'd be a nice bonus too.