Washington -- A quasi-governmental panel headed by a Rhode
Island state senator is examining whether Cox Communications Inc. provides a sufficient
number of public-access channels and whether the state's 1981 franchise regulations need
to be updated.
Cox is the state's dominant cable operator, with 92 percent
of its approximately 300,000 subscribers. After it completes a system swap with MediaOne
Group Inc., Cox will see its market share rise to 96 percent.
State Sen. Thomas R. Coderre (D-Pawtucket) has held three
public sessions, one of which focused on the need for Cox to increase its number of
PEG-access (public, educational and government) channels.
Coderre has assembled an ad hoc panel that includes state
leaders from the business, education and disabilities communities for a wide-ranging look
at public-service contributions by Cox.
Cox spokeswoman Patricia Sylvia said the MSO provides
public-access channels that meet or exceed state requirements.
Coderre's panel, she added, has not become a vehicle for
Internet-service providers to demand access to Cox's broadband facilities -- a hot topic
for AT&T Corp. lately. Cox offers @Home Network to a majority of its Rhode Island
"I don't think that is high on their agenda," she
said. "I think it's more of a review of the state of public access in Rhode