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Votes

Cable Modem Regulations Approved

The County Council on Tuesday approved a set of regulations designed to improve the standard of service provided to cable modem subscribers.

The final vote on July 27 was 6-3 (Subin, Knapp and Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) against). The regulations went into effect immediately.

Residents' complaints may now result in fines being imposed on cable modem providers if they do not abide the standards of service set forth by the Council.

The Council hopes that this will result in better customer service from Cable modem providers.

The Councilmembers who spoke in favor of the proposed regulations pointed out that the standards address only customer service standards and do not attempt to regulate technical and speed standards.

“Customer service and consumer service should be what any good business is about,” said Marilyn Praisner (D-4).

Councilmember Phil Andrews (D-3) noted that there is not any substantive competition in terms of speed to cable modem service, and that there have been more than 1,000 complaints about poor service. This number, he noted, only reflected those who were able to navigate the county’s system to issue a complaint. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Potomac’s Councilmember Howard Denis (R-1) was also supportive of the regulations.

“I think that this is a matter that is appropriate,” he said. “It addresses a need.”

The Councilmembers who were opposed to the standards said they were too broad and not likely to be the best way of increasing service.

Floreen said that the standards were unreasonable because they asked too much of the cable modem providers, and many problems are a result of the customer’s computer, not the provider’s service. “By suggesting that a cable company can, on its own, fix everybody’s computers is wrong,” she said.

Subin said that increased competition is the best way to go forward with improving standards. “There are those of us who believe that the best way to do it is through competition,” he said.

He further noted that the Federal Communications Commission has yet to rule on the status of cable modems and they may issue a ruling which would require the modification of the county’s regulations. “I think it is premature,” Subin said. “I think these are unwise regulations. I think they are premature. I think they point in the wrong direction.”

Knapp also said that increased competition is the better way to ensure better standards. “I think that is something that we as a county need to continue to look at,” he said.

He also said that the industry is in its infancy and that by incorporating new regulations, the county may scare away other companies who might want to enter the county. “We’re probably sending the wrong message at exactly the wrong time,” Knapp said.