Public access TV not available with Charter

The cable company’s subscribers still cannot view the channel.
Friday, July 22, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:17 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pat Fowler is a victim of irony. She works 20 to 40 hours per month producing “Running Columbia” for public access television, but because Charter Communications has yet to air the channel, she and about 1,400 other Columbia-area residents have yet to see it in their homes.

Fowler and co-producer Jay Hasheider created “Running Columbia” for local runners. She has called city officials and Charter representatives and even voiced her complaint at a meeting of the Cable Television Task Force — all to no avail.

“I am primarily frustrated by the fact I still have not heard a date … when I can watch all the varied programming on CAT3-TV,” she said.

“If I have time to drive to town, I can watch the channel at my friends’ houses.”

Sue Buske, a California-based cable consultant hired by the city, said existing franchise agreements require Charter and Mediacom to air the public access channel. While Mediacom has fulfilled that obligation, Charter has not.

Mediacom began showing the channel in October to its 26,000 subscribers.

Charter’s government relations manager, Eddie Trower, said the cable company has had Channel 21 reserved for public access for the past three years and is eager to make it available. Right now, attorneys for Charter and Mediacom are working on an interconnection agreement that would allow Charter to feed off Mediacom’s system and to air the channel.

“There has to be an agreement any time a company is opening their system up to someone else, so they can make sure they’re not being taken advantage of,” Trower said.

Trower said Charter wants to connect to Mediacom because the public access studio at Stephens College is too far from Charter’s service area.

Trower couldn’t say how long the negotiations might take. Once they’re complete, he said, it would take about three weeks to get the proper equipment to achieve the interconnection.

Trower said he believes Charter subscribers will be able to watch public access by the time its next franchise agreement takes effect at the beginning of 2006. But he hopes that can change actually happen within the next month or two.

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