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Charter losing its monopoly on 'cable TV' service in Ceres
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Technology is eliminating the monopoly of Charter Communications in "cable TV" services. In response to changes in the industry, the Ceres City Council had to change its cable TV franchise ordinance on Aug. 25.

As an internet service provider, AT&T now offers TV service through fiber-optic technology. Because technology is revolutionizing cable TV services in the country, federal and state laws have changed.

For years Charter Communications has been the only company permitted to supply cable TV in Ceres.

The council adopted an ordinance in response to the state's passage of the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006. The act was the result of telephone companies lobbying the Legislature as a method of streamlining their entrance into the cable TV market. Previously, without cable TV franchises, the phone companies were unable to provide video service in most locations and could not match bundling packages provided by cable TV companies like Charter. They complained to lawmakers that negotiating independent franchise agreements with cities would take too much time and would result in further business losses. Thus, the state passed the act that set up a statewide franchising system, which is overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The act removed cities like Ceres from the video franchising process, said City Attorney Mike Lyions. But cities still must enforce customer service standards. The city of Ceres still gets to keep the franchise fee of 5 percent of gross revenues.

Councilmembers learned that AT&T must provide the same number of public, Educational and government (PEG) channels as does the existing cable TV company. The city of Ceres can ask AT&T to provide up to three PEG channels.

Ceres resident Len Shepherd commented to the council that it was good that Charter has comptition in Ceres.

"That's good because this monopoly of Charter Communications ... just goes totally against my grain," said Shepherd. "Then you think, well, I'll go to Dishnetwork or one of those and they're just as bad and cost just as much."