February 9, 2018
Federal Court Recognizes Vermont Access Network Right to Intervene in Comcast Suit Against the State of Vermont
Judge Geoffrey Crawford of the U.S. District Court has over-ridden Comcast objections and granted Vermont Access Network (VAN) intervenor status in Comcast’s challenge to the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) Order that put specific conditions on Comcast’s continued operation in Vermont.
VAN represents Vermont’s the twenty five public, educational and government (PEG) access management organizations, that operate more than 75 community based cable TV channels.
In June 2017, in Docket 8301, the Vermont PUC ordered Comcast to provide Vermont’s PEG operations with access to modern features of the cable network, including access to the interactive program guide, more community drops for live programming, high definition channels, and statewide network capacity. The PUC also ordered Comcast to extend lines to certain rural communities of Vermont.
Comcast filed suit against the PUC ruling in Fall 2017, declaring that the State of Vermont did not have the authority to set these conditions. The Company also opposed VAN’s intervention in the federal case. Judge Crawford disagreed with Comcast and supported VAN’s arguments and intervention on February 8th, saying:
Obviously VAN-like many similar non-profits engaged in advocacy on public issues-takes a lively interest in the outcome of the litigation. Since its membership of public access stations lack their own broadcast or cable networks, these stations depend on networks maintained by cable operators like Comcast to reach their viewers. Any change in the conditions under which Comcast must carry their programming affects them greatly. This lawsuit was prompted by changes in those conditions as they are set out in the new VPUC franchise order. VAN clearly has an interest in this action that may be impaired by the disposition of this case, particularly if Comcast succeeds on the merits of its appeal. (Case No. 5:l 7-cv-161)
- Bennington Banner: Public Access Television: Comcast sues Vt. utilities commission
- Rutland Herald: Comcast sues to buck conditions imposed by state
- VAN Board President Editorial
- Philly.com: VT Official SaysComcast Forcing ‘Digital Siberia’ on it as Cable Giant Sues State Regulators
- The News Project coverage from 02.01.17