Cox Communications Government Affairs Manager Arthurine Payton addressed the council regarding several decisions that company has implemented, such as the removal of the channel listings station from basic cable format and splitting religious channels TBN and EWTN from their joint station and moving them to digital. Payton acknowledged that many customers called Cox in response to the moves made by the cable provider. Addressing the two religious stations split from a joint channel and migration to digital, Payton said, “Which ever programming you prefer, you can get that channel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on channels 335 and 336 respectively.” However, she acknowledged that you need to subscribe to digital to get that programming, which is a substantial increase to the basic package that each shared a channel on.
According to Payton, these moves are forced by a FCC mandate that requires by 2009 all televisions run on digital signals, allowing the analog — which basic cable currently runs on– to be used for broadband and communications for emergency workers.
Citing the moves as the progress of technology, Payton said, “The best analogy that I can give is that 30 years ago we used to have 8-track tapes. They gave to way to cassette tapes, which gave way to CDs.” Payton said the FCC is forcing Cox to use less and less room on analog, and some complaints are made by those that are resistant to change. For those, Payton said that Cox has made digital available at a temporary discount.
“While I agree with your statement that people are resistant to change, I really don’t think that totally applies in the transition that Cox is going through right now,” said Councilman Clayton “Snookie” Faucheux, adding that the analog customers’ cost for basic cable is continuing to go up, while the services offered at that those prices are shrinking.
“I understand that FCC may be mandating you to increase your digital performance, but I cannot believe that they are mandating you to reduce your services to analog customers.”
The removal of the TV Guide Channel from basic cable was another concern that Payton addressed, saying that TV Guide is no longer in the business of providing that service.
Councilman Ganesier “Ram” Ramchandran said that the difficulties stemmed from lack of competition. “Like a one newspaper city, we have become a one cable town,” he said.
Introduced by Councilwoman April Black, an ordinance was passed that halted the approval of any new subdivisions, new mobile home parks, RV parks, and the placement of mobile homes and RV’s on property not currently zoned as such on the east bank until the present water crisis can be addressed. The measure passed 7-1, with Marino, Faucheux, Ramchandran, Walls Duhe and Black voting in favor. Councilman Desmond Hilaire was the lone disenter, with Council Chairman Brian Fabre absent.
“This is not to stop development on the east bank of St. Charles Parish. This is basically to slow it down a little bit,” said Black.
Randy Noel, from New Homeowners Assoc. of Greater New Orleans, asked what would happen to a subdivision that was not in existence already. To wit, Black informed him that anything already approved or applied for would be allowed to continue.
“We in the industry feel awfully uncomfortable about moratoriums, but we understand that is an issue here about water. We just want to be sure that is a temporary issue, and once its resolved things are opened back up,” said Noel.
Unlike the last parish council meeting where a resolution was passed –which is only the intent of the council– the ordinance makes the moratorium law.