comcast2.jpgIn the corporate playground, Comcast is a mean son of a gun — and among the 90-pound weaklings the cable giant pushes around, include the City and County of San Francisco.

Cable companies doing business in San Francisco have to pay what’s called a PEG fee. In return for the right to choke the local ether with King of Queens reruns — under federal law, cable TV lines are public right of way — cable providers must contribute three percent of their revenue to pay for local public, educational or government (PEG) programming.

This money goes to pay for goings-on at the local public access station, which used to be AccessSF, now it’s the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) and SF Commons.

Exactly how much Comcast pays under the three percent rule was not immediately available, but its competitor Astound — with far fewer customers — paid out $103,977 over an eighteen month period from 2007 to 2008, a documents show. Whatever Comcast pays will be less than the city wanted, however, after the Board of Supervisors agreed to settle Tuesday a claim with the cable giant.

Comcast threatened the city with legal action unless it could contribute no more than 1.15 percent of its revenue to the PEG fund, rather than the full 3 percent, as well as a $375,000 one-time payment. Concede to our demands or go to court, said Comcast to the city, and the city stepped to.

It might sound like a corporate giant throwing its weight around, but the deal as Comcast dictated it is still pretty sweet for the city, according to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who’s been the city’s point man on issues public access.

“We were never going to get that [3 percent contribution]” said Mirkarimi, who noted that it’s not a big deal anyway: the PEG fee can only be used on capital improvements, like building a TV station, not day-to-day costs, like operating the TV station (the $375,000 one-time fee can cover day-to-day operations). “It’s programming and operations that we were worried about completely drying up,” he added.

Of course, not everyone is happy with the deal. AccessSF used to have a sweet studio on Market Street available for anyone to use; according to many, BAVC’s digs on Mariposa Street apparently aren’t quite as accessible.

But we’re more focused on Comcast’s hegemony, and offer this as a cautionary tale the next time you consider not paying your cable bill: Comcast fought City Hall, yo.

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  • Greg Dewar

    one of the worst worst worst things that the Legislature and the Governor did was when they caved into comcast and basically voided all the local charters that cities had negotiated with comcast, (or other systems) and basically created a state charter that was more or less written by comcast.

    This was because AT &T wanted to get into the TV business with its telephone network, and was demanding a statewide charter and because the Speaker at the time was pretty much a rep for AT&T, they did what they had to do to get it passed. Comcast was the major objector – they were placated with this new way and the rest is history.

    Interestingly enough, San Bruno owns the cable television system outright, and so far, the sky hasn’t fallen there. Rates are much lower though!

  • Greg Dewar

    one of the worst worst worst things that the Legislature and the Governor did was when they caved into comcast and basically voided all the local charters that cities had negotiated with comcast, (or other systems) and basically created a state charter that was more or less written by comcast.

    This was because AT &T wanted to get into the TV business with its telephone network, and was demanding a statewide charter and because the Speaker at the time was pretty much a rep for AT&T, they did what they had to do to get it passed. Comcast was the major objector – they were placated with this new way and the rest is history.

    Interestingly enough, San Bruno owns the cable television system outright, and so far, the sky hasn’t fallen there. Rates are much lower though!

  • Erik

    So a federal law says they have to pay 3%, Comcast says they aren’t paying, and the city says “well just just give us whatever amount you feel like”. I’m guessing this approach wouldn’t work for regular people who don’t want to pay their entire parking ticket fine?

  • Erik

    So a federal law says they have to pay 3%, Comcast says they aren’t paying, and the city says “well just just give us whatever amount you feel like”. I’m guessing this approach wouldn’t work for regular people who don’t want to pay their entire parking ticket fine?

  • JayDizzletonTheFourth

    So is Comcast passing the savings along to the customers?

  • JayDizzletonTheFourth

    So is Comcast passing the savings along to the customers?

  • supertamsf

    “… cable providers must contribute three percent of their revenue”

    Comcast said “no” we will pay 1.5, or else we’ll sue? So sue. What kind of a case would they have? Isn’t that like saying: “I’m blowing thru this red light and your not going to give me a ticket…and if you do I’ll sue?” How can they get away with that?

  • supertamsf

    “… cable providers must contribute three percent of their revenue”

    Comcast said “no” we will pay 1.5, or else we’ll sue? So sue. What kind of a case would they have? Isn’t that like saying: “I’m blowing thru this red light and your not going to give me a ticket…and if you do I’ll sue?” How can they get away with that?

  • JiminSF

    Comcast kicked me out of their internet service when I exceeded their 250 gig per month bandwidth limit. Why has SF given them a cable monopoly?

  • JiminSF

    Comcast kicked me out of their internet service when I exceeded their 250 gig per month bandwidth limit. Why has SF given them a cable monopoly?

  • JiminSF
  • JiminSF
  • JiminSF
  • JiminSF