The City Council has decided to install and operate its own cable television system, an action that concerns cable TV companies because they fear it may set a precedent.
The council said citizen complaints about the service of Premiere Cable TV, plus continual late payment of fees and franchise taxes to the city have led to the action.A new ordinance creates the Municipal Telecommunications Cable System, a separate department within the city. A non-exclusive franchise was approved, similar to that for the preceding cable company. The ordinance also provides for financing and fees, and created a cable citizens advisory committee.
The advisory committee will determine programming. Rates will vary, depending on the number of channels that are offered, said City Recorder Emalee Curtis. "Even though telecommunications is a department within the city, it will pay a 2 percent pole attachment fee just like any other company. Franchise fees will also be collected from customers and paid to the city."
Paul Jensen, owner of Southern Utah Cable TV with headquarters in St. George, as well as Premiere representatives, have met with the council, wanting to provide the service. Premiere officials promised the city that the company will improve its service, but the council approved the new ordinance anyway.
The ordinance strengthens the city's position if it were ultimately decided to offer a cable franchise to a commercial company, said Mayor Ralph Okerlund. The ordinance will take effect 20 days after being approved.
Curtis said complaints voiced against the Premiere TV Co. include lack of quality materials in construction, resulting in frequent outages; the system not being designed for the winter weather in Monroe; poor response time, requiring a week to 10 days to answer user complaints; late payment of franchise and pole fees; lack of a local office; and billing problems. "We get complaints at the city office, but when we talk to company representatives it's like talking to a door," the recorder said.
Premiere officials previously threatened litigation against the city if it was to establish its own cable system, saying the city had an unfair advantage because it owned the poles on which cable wire is strung and that its billing system was in place. Recent meetings with city officials have been congenial, however.
In a prospectus prepared for the city by the Lone Star Cable System of Pleasant Grove, it was estimated that it would cost about $200,000 to install the system. Major expenses would be $7,000 per mile for 13 miles of cable and $91,000 for head equipment, based on expenses of $3,500 per channel for 18 channels.
There are about 625 potential customers in the city, but 325 have never subscribed to cable service. Many have discontinued the service because of dissatisfaction.
Some 95 percent of those who answered questions in a recent city survey indicated they would subscribe to city-owned cable television. About 84 percent said they felt the price charged by Premiere was not fair, and nearly 90 percent voiced dissatisfaction with the present system.