Charter Asks For Basic Dereg In Northwest

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Washington— Charter Communications Inc. is seeking total rate deregulation for 21 cable franchises serving communities scattered across the Pacific Northwest.

Charter recently filed petitions with the Federal Communications Commission for authority to set its own basic tier rates in 15 franchise areas in Washington state and six in Oregon.

The requests were based on greater than 15% direct-broadcast satellite penetration, according to an informed source.

Expanded basic rates were deregulated on March 31, 1999, but basic rates remain under local control until the cable company demonstrates that effective competition has emerged.

The basic tier includes local TV stations, public access channels, and any cable networks placed there by the cable company.

Deregulation petitions can be controversial. Regulators in Dallas are opposing Comcast Corp.’s attempt to set basic rates for about 136,000 subscribers. Comcast cited DBS penetration greater than 15%, the benchmark in federal law that triggers full deregulation.

Comcast and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association have proposed making full cable deregulation nearly automatic in the 41 states where DBS penetration is greater than 15%.

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