City OKs local cable agreement

By Patrick Wade

The Champaign City Council approved an agreement between Insight Communications Company and Comcast Corporation Tuesday night to allow Comcast 100 percent ownership of the cable share in Champaign.

Previously, Insight and Comcast shared the Champaign cable duties, each owning 50 percent of the city franchise.

Rick Atterberry, chairman of the Champaign-Urbana Cable and Telecommunications Commission, said this does not mean a whole lot for Champaign cable viewers.

“Basically, it’s just rearranging things so that Comcast ends up with 100 percent,” Atterberry said.

Because the city had a franchise agreement with both companies, the city council had to approve the transfer of ownership from Insight to Comcast. With the city’s approval, the deal will most likely go into effect Jan. 1, 2008, Atterberry said.

After the transfer goes into effect, Comcast will take over the day-to-day operations in Champaign, duties which Insight currently oversees.

“You’ll see (Comcast) trucks, we’ll be paying our bills to them instead of Insight,” Atterberry said.

Cable subscribers may see a rise in rates some time next spring, Atterberry said, but nothing out of the ordinary.

“I think our rates are pretty similar to other Comcast communities,” Atterberry said.

Atterberry added that if rates do go up, it will be more of a long-term rise instead of an immediate increase.

The ownership transfer is bad news for Big Ten sports fans, however, as Comcast has yet to reach a deal with the new Big Ten Network.

The network holds the broadcast rights to Big Ten sporting events that bigger networks, such as ABC and ESPN, would not air.

The Big Ten Network is asking that Comcast include the channel in Comcast’s basic package for an extra $1.10 a month. Comcast declined this offer, and the deal is still in negotiations.

“Sports fans definitely want it,” Atterberry said. “But people who don’t care about sports don’t want to pay for it.”