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Granite Falls Council plans to challenge Mediacom petition

GRANITE FALLS -- Granite Falls City Council members voted unanimously on Monday to challenge a petition filed by Mediacom with the Federal Communications Commission.

The cable television franchise holder in the community is asking to be exempt from rate regulation by the city and the federal entity, according to City Manager Bill Lavin.

The company is filing its request under a regulation that allows for the exemption when franchise holders face "effective competition.''

That is defined as occurring when competition from "direct-broadcast satellite" services penetrates 15 percent of a market. Mediacom claims direct-broadcast satellite services now penetrate 18.6 percent of the Granite Falls market.

The city will question the methodology used by Mediacom to claim the 18.6 percent penetration.

Council members are not sure how effective their challenge will be, even if successful. Council members noted that the city is usually informed of rate changes by Mediacom, but does not have any authority to stop them.

In deciding to challenge the petition, council members said they receive complaints about cable television rates from subscribers who charge that the company offers a better selection of channels for lower costs in other communities.

Council members agreed to spend $2,500 to retain media law attorney Brian Grogan of the firm Moss and Barnett, Minneapolis, to file the challenge.

Council members also approved first readings of two separate ordinances governing landscaping and construction projects that require city permits. If the ordinances are approved, the city could issue misdemeanor tickets to permit-holders who fail to complete their projects within 180 days.

Council members have received complaints about uncompleted landscaping and construction projects in the town, Lavin said.

In another matter, council members took no action on a proposal to spend $2,000 for a survey of property between Granite Falls and Wegdahl along the corridor of the proposed Minnesota River Valley Trail. Geoff Hathaway with the Trail Initiative is asking council members to see if the trail route could be revised to avoid conflicts with the Twin Cities & Western and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads.

The railroads and city remain locked in litigation over the trail plans.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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