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Friday, Aug 19, 2022
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Cable Firms Say Proposed Fee Hike Excessive

Area cable companies are keeping close tabs on a proposal before the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Board to raise the fee levied to allow cable to be strung on department-owned poles. The companies contend that an increase will be passed on to subscribers resulting in higher rates that could in turn affect franchise fees paid to the city. “We are acting on behalf of the subscribers,” said Deane Leavenworth, vice president of corporate relations and communications for the Los Angeles division of Time Warner Communications. “The need for revenue should not be unfairly borne by one group.” The department’s five-member commission initially approved the increase to $30 per pole per year from $10 on April 18. The Los Angeles City Council, however, vetoed the increase because the DWP board had not justified it nor had given ample public comment. The matter returns to the DWP board at its June 6 meeting. Attempts to reach a representative of the Department of Water and Power were not successful. However, according to transcripts of the meeting at which the fee increase was discussed, Commissioner Nick Patsaouras was the most vocal supporter. “You know cable service is a luxury,” Patsaouras said. “Someone having lights on or having water is a necessity.” The department brings in $567,400 per year in pole attachment fees. Another $32,620 is raised through anchor fees. While there are nearly 30 cable, telecommunication and other companies paying the fee, it is the cable providers who use the most poles. Adelphia pays the highest fee at $228,000 annually, followed by Comcast with $209,280, Time Warner Communications with $81,060 and Cox Communications with $5,810. But those numbers will change later this summer as the result of a finalization of Time Warner and Comcast’s acquiring Adelphia and swapping customers in the Los Angeles area to give a greater concentration of customers for Time Warner. Time Warner currently has about a 60 percent penetration rate in the San Fernando Valley, Leavenworth said. Charter Communications pays $470 annually for access to DWP poles. Charter Vice President of Communications Craig Watson said that while the company was conceptually concerned about the increase because of its impact on other cable companies, it was not a major concern to the company because it has about 10 customers within the city limits. The cable companies, who have been corresponding with the department through the Los Angeles Cable Operators Association, are not opposed to an increase but want one that has some logic applied to it and reasonable, Leavenworth said. “That remains to be seen,” Leavenworth said. “We hope to have a dialogue with DWP at the next meeting.” A report by an analyst prepared for the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee included a comparison of what other public and private utilities charged as an attachment fee and concluded that while a “reasonable case” could be made for a DWP increase, there were few examples of fees reaching $30.

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