Comcast sues Vermont PUC over franchise conditions

Comcast Center headquarters in Philadelphia. Image: Comcast
Comcast has sued the Vermont Public Utilities Commission for what it claims are unreasonable demands tied to its cable franchise renewal last January. 

Comcast has sued the Vermont Public Utilities Commission for what it claims are unreasonable demands tied to its cable franchise renewal last January. 

Last month, the state PUC denied Comcast’s request to have requirements tied to public educational and government channels (PEGs) and network expansion removed from its 11-year franchise extension in the state. And this week, Comcast filed suit in a Burlington, Vermont federal court.

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

For one, Comcast is pushing back on a requirement that PEG channels not only show up in its standard scrolling pay-TV program grid, but its interactive program guide, as well. Comcast claims that integrating the local PEGs into its interactive guide could cost as much as $4 million. 

“The VPUC acknowledged these significant costs, but imposed the new condition despite overwhelming evidence from Comcast cable subscribers in Vermont that they did not want to pay any additional fees for this PEG-related IPG feature,” Comcast said in its complaint. “In fact, not one surveyed subscriber affirmatively supported paying for it. No other franchising authority in the country has ordered Comcast to make such costly system redesigns or to incur such ongoing additional operating costs.” (A copy of the suit was obtained by CableFax.)

Comcast is also pushing back on the PUC’s demand that the operator build out 550 miles of new cable in Vermont. 

“The VPUC claimed that it could impose the blanket 550 mile line extension mandate on Comcast because it is the ‘largest’ cable operator in Vermont and can afford it. These discriminatory conditions contravene federal and state law, amount to undue speaker-based burdens on Comcast’s protected speech under the First Amendment,” Comcast said in its claim.

The PUC isn’t commenting on the complaint. 

Comcast released the following statement: “After reviewing the order and denial, and evaluating its likely impact, we have determined our best course of action is to appeal this decision.”

Read more on