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PROVO TAKES ACTION TO BETTER CITY’S CABLE TELEVISION SERVICE

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Officials hope that city action this week will soon lead to improved service for subscribers of cable television.

The City Council passed two ordinances that revise Provo cable television regulations. The ordinances were passed in preparation for contract negotiations with TCI Cablevision of Utah Inc., whose contract expires in December.The new ordinances require that TCI submit an annual financial disclosure statement, thus allowing the city to determine what percentage of company profits are going toward upgrading and improving service. During hearings earlier this year, city residents complained about inadequate customer service, escalating costs of cable television and the system's poor quality.

In addition to requiring an annual financial statement, the new ordinances require cable companies to prepare and distribute a notice outlining consumers' rights regarding service, rates, billing, disconnection, obscenity, etc.

Cable companies also must establish acceptable periods of time for office hours and for responding to system outages, consumer calls and complaints. They must maintain performance and service logs and meet certain reception standards.

TCI representative Dan McCarty, during a City Council study session earlier this week, took exception with the annual financial disclosure.

He said TCI, which has provided cable service to Provo since 1966, is willing to disclose financial information as part of contract negotiations.

But McCarty balked at annual disclosures because they could play into the hands of TCI competitors.

The point could become moot, however, in light of pending congressional legislation.

According to the congressional General Accounting Office, basic cable television rates climbed twice the rate of inflation last year. TCI rates have risen nearly 100 percent since 1985.

Several national legislators and watchdog groups have been calling for legislation that, in the words or Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., would "rein in the renegade operators." Subcommittees in both the House and Senate have approved measures that would set standards and costs for basis service.