N.J. Eyes Tighter Cable Standards


Cable operators in New Jersey could be forced to abide by more stringent
standards for answering consumer phone calls, better-defined service windows and
redefined outage-credit requirements should the state's Board of Public
Utilities approve a proposed set of new regulations.

Gov. James McGreevey has already blessed the rules.

"Too often, cable customers waste an entire day waiting for the cable company
to arrive to repair and install service," McGreevey, a Democrat, said at a press
conference. "We have a fundamental obligation to ensure reliable, affordable,
customer-focused service to the state's 2.5 million cable customers."

The New Jersey Cable Telecommunications Association responded by lauding the
governor for supporting customer service. In a prepared statement, NJCTA
president Karen Alexander said New Jersey operators have spent $3 billion over
the past five years to make their networks 99.9 percent reliable.

The state's operators already meet or exceed federal standards to answer 90
percent of inbound calls within 30 seconds, she added.

The BPU's current rules governing how the state's localities regulate cable
were last written in 2000 and expire this June.

The new rules would be viable for the next three years, at which time state
regulators would review the state of competition within the industry and whether
this regulatory proposal has become too burdensome.

The regulatory scheme would hit four companies hardest: Comcast Corp.,
Cablevision Systems Corp., Time Warner Cable and Service Electric Cable TV Inc.
Those operators serve 94 percent of New Jersey's cable customers.

The BPU has set a Feb. 19 public hearing on the proposed changes. The public
has until March 7 to comment on the regulations.