A state lawmaker says deregulation of the cable industry is threatening local public access channels. State Representative Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) says the Video Competition Act passed by lawmakers last session is causing a wide range of problems for local Public, Educational, and Government channels.

Among them is the loss of a one-percent fee on cable bills, which many channels rely on to fund their operations. The ability for local governments to charge that fee ends next January.

Hebl says the bill also allowed cable providers to push PEG channels into the “Siberia” of the TV dial, hiding them in the upper 90s and 900s on different services and sometimes limiting what subscribers can view them.

The Sun Prairie Democrat is proposing legislation that would restore the ability of communities to charge the PEG fee, and require cable providers to offer the channels on their basic tier of service. Without action, Hebl says many of those stations could go dark.

Critics of the bill warn it could stifle innovation and competition in cable markets.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:10)

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