Dingell Grills Comcast on Set-Top Requirement

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Comcast could be in hot water with a powerful lawmaker on Capitol Hill.

House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) was upset to learn that Comcast is requiring many Michigan subscribers to obtain a digital set-top box to view local public, educational and governmental channels, or PEG channels.

According to Dingell, a Comcast customer would get a free STB for one year but would need to rent STBs for additional sets.

“Your intent to charge consumers as much as an additional $4.20 a month per television set to receive PEG channels is plainly inconsistent with congressional intent that PEG channels be made available `at the lowest reasonable rate,'” Dingell said in a Dec. 21 letter to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. “I ask that Comcast reconsider this decision.”

Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast’s senior director of corporate communications and government Affairs, said in a conciliatory statement that the company “appreciate[s] the chairman's concerns and look[s] forward to working with him regarding this issue.”

In a dig at the conduct of competition, she added: “Most of our competitors, including satellite companies and AT&T, either do not carry PEG programming or require consumers to have digital boxes to receive it.”

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