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Ventura Council to Apply for Right to Regulate Cable Rates

September 14, 1993|PEGGY Y. LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nearly two weeks after a local Ventura cable television company changed its rates, the Ventura City Council Monday decided to apply for the right to regulate cable TV rates in the city.

The council voted 4 to 3 to seek the regulatory power, with Mayor Gregory Carson and Councilmen Tom Buford and Jack Tingstrom dissenting.

After Century Cable restructured its rates Sept. 1 because of new federal guidelines, dozens of subscribers called City Hall to complain about their rate increases.

About 20 residents came to the meeting to voice their opinions, and many urged council members to apply to the Federal Communications Commission to regulate basic service rates.

"If we ignore the opportunity to assume the role of regulator, what will happen in the future?" said Jim Lane, president of a homeowners' group in Ventura. "Doing nothing is inappropriate."

Councilwoman Cathy Bean said although she would regret having to spend city funds to regulate cable rates, city government has a duty to protect residents against future, unreasonable rate increases.

"This is like a wildfire running through the community and nobody seems to be able to control it," Bean said.

But Councilman Tom Buford said cable companies are not a public utility and should not be regulated.

"I see it as a real Pandora's box," he said before the meeting. "I'm not convinced that it's something we should be doing."

If the FCC approves the city as a local regulatory agency, the council would have the authority to review basic service rates at Century Cable and Avenue Cable, the city's two cable companies.

Avenue Cable charges $14.26 per month for its 20-channel basic service and Century Cable charges $24.95 per month for its 29-channel basic service.

City leaders could receive regulatory authority as early as January or February.

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