Midco faces fine of $25,000
Midcontinent Cable, a supplier of television services in Mitchell and the region, has been fined $25,000 by the Federal Communications Commission, but a Midco senior vice president says the fine stems from a "problematic" request issued by outgoi...
Midcontinent Cable, a supplier of television services in Mitchell and the region, has been fined $25,000 by the Federal Communications Commission, but a Midco senior vice president says the fine stems from a "problematic" request issued by outgoing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
On Jan. 19, Midcontinent was named one of nine cable companies to be fined for leaving some customers without access to certain channels after they were transferred to a more expensive digital tier.
Midcontinent was fined $25,000 for failing to respond fully to an Enforcement Bureau letter of inquiry from the FCC, but W. Tom Simmons, senior vice president of public policy at Midcontinent, said the disagreement with the FCC has nothing to do with the channel switch. Instead, Simmons said the FCC is upset that Midcontinent will not provide them with specific prices for the cost of programming from specific channels.
Simmons said Midcontinent is contractually obligated to not reveal the very information the FCC is requesting.
"If we disclose that information, we are in breach of our contract, which would likely open up liability of a lawsuit with our programmer, never mind the fact that we kind of need to maintain a good relationship with these people because they supply the programming," Simmons said.
Midcontinent did shift some channels to a digital tier, but accompanied the move with an offer to send customers a free box that would allow them to see the channels in analog, Simmons said.
The Jan. 19 FCC notice sent to Midcontinent gave the company 10 days to respond. Simmons said Midcontinent is formulating its response.
Since outgoing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin issued the fine shortly before his resignation, Simmons hopes Martin's replacement will be sympathetic to Midcontinent's situation.
A change in leadership can bring about confusion in the industry, Simmons said, and he's hopeful the issue will soon be resolved.
"It's not Midcontinent's style to virtually thumb their nose at any regulatory authority as long as the requests are reasonable, but this one is certainly problematic," Simmons said. "Issues like this are the rocks that come with a farm, as an old farmer once told me."