Cable/telecommunications City of Dearborn v Comcast of Michigan
Case No: 08 – 10156 (2008)
Issue: Local control of PEG channels under the Michigan and federal cable laws
Background: Comcast announced late in 2007 that it would move public, educational, and government (PEG) channels from the basic tier cable service to a digital 900 series of channels on January 15, 2008. By making the change, there would be over 400,000 basic subscribers in the state who would not be able to have access to local government meetings, sports, and school events on their PEG channels without additional equipment.
Under the federal Cable Act, local government franchising authorities may require cable operators to designate channel capacity for PEG channels. Separate cable franchise agreements were entered into between Comcast and Meridian Charter Township, Bloomfield Township and the cities of Dearborn and Warren requiring that PEG channels be provided to township and city customers. Meridian Charter Township and the city of Dearborn filed a complaint in federal court claiming that the proposed actions of Comcast violated federal law and their franchise agreements. They requested that an injunction be ordered by the court preventing Comcast from making the conversion. Comcast countered that Michigan’s Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act of 2006 invalidated relevant provisions of the franchise agreements. Bloomfield and Warren subsequently joined the suit.
Why did the LDF get involved? The proposed actions of Comcast violated federal law and local franchise provisions.What action did the LDF take? The LDF authorized financial assistance to Meridian Charter Township and Dearborn in their efforts to prevent Comcast from moving the PEG channels.
What was the outcome? The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, granted the township’s and city’s motions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting Comcast, without the permission of the court, from moving the PEG channels from their current location or changing the format in which they are delivered to subscribers preserving availability of these PEG channels for all subscribers.