Washington -- In a victory for the city of Antioch, Calif.,
an FCC official said last week that federal law does not supercede senior discounts
established by local franchise agreements.
Deborah Lathen, chief of the Federal Communications
Commission's Cable Services Bureau, sent a letter to the city, which asked for the
clarification in attempting to enforce a senior-citizen-discount element that it had
negotiated in 1984.
Originally operated by Viacom Cable, the local system goes
by the name Tele-Vue Systems Inc. It is currently operated by Tele-Communications Inc.,
which has declined to honor the deal.
TCI charges seniors more than $11 per month above the $8.50
negotiated rate for basic and expanded-basic service. Further, the operator tightened
qualifications, allowing rate cuts only to Social Security and SSI (Supplemental Security
Income) recipients. Unqualified seniors have to pay $24.80.
Local courts have declined to step in, deferring authority
to federal rulemakers.
Antioch's City Council is scheduled to vote this
Tuesday (Feb. 9) on TCI's proposed transfer to AT&T Corp. Armed with the letter
from the FCC, city attorney Bill Galston said Antioch will require any new operator to
recognize the discounts as a requirement for franchise approval.