Texas School Asks FCC to Block Time Warner Cable's PEG Move

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The McAllen (Tex.) School District has asked the FCC to block Time Warner Cable from migrating PEG channels from analog to digital there starting Oct. 1.

That is according to a request for a standstill order supplied to Multichannel News by attorneys for the district.

The McAllen district, which describes itself as a heavy user of educational channel access, wants the FCC to block the move to digital there and elsewhere until it acts on other petitions. The commission has petitions under consideration since February 2009, seeking a declaratory ruling that migrating the channels to a digital tier is discrimination.

"Had the Commission issued the requested rulings, it would have prevented incumbent cable operators from discriminating against PEG channels or exercising editorial control over the PEG channel capacity. But, some 19 months later, the Commission has not yet issued a decision in this docket," the petition stated.

PEG channels are not mandated by federal law -- as is the carriage of local TV stations. Instead, the 1992 Cable Act gives localities the ability to require channel set asides for public, educational, or government channels.

Cable operators are moving PEG channels as part of the eventual move of all their channels to digital and, in the short term, to help free up more capacity for advanced services.

The petition calls Time Warner Cable's move an "immediate threat," but adds that the "discrimination" is not unique to the nation's No. 2 cable operator.

Time Warner Cable had not responded to a request for comment at press time, but the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, of which the MSO  is a member, has argued in comments on the petition for declaratory ruling that digitization is part of cable's own transition to digital; that it frees up valuable channel space while minimizing the disruption to analog customers; and that there is nothing in the Cable Act preventing the digitization of some of the basic-tier channels even if that means some customers may need to get new equipment to see them.

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