Grosse Pointe Park council agrees to eliminate PEG fees

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 28, 2020

GROSSE POINTE PARK — Cable subscribers in Grosse Pointe Park will be seeing their bills reduced, albeit not by much.

At the recommendation of administrators, the Grosse Pointe Park City Council voted unanimously during a July 13 meeting using Zoom videoconferencing to end the collection of public, educational and governmental access channel fees — better known as PEG fees.

For Comcast subscribers, PEG fees account for 1.15% in the Park, while subscribers to AT&T’s U-verse pay 2%. City Manager Nick Sizeland said that means cable subscribers in the Park are paying about $3 to $4 per month in PEG fees. He said he has been told these fees can be eliminated from customer bills in less than a month.

With new FCC rules overriding the state’s Uniform Franchise Act, Grosse Pointe City Manager Pete Dame said in June that PEG fees can no longer be used for anything except equipment, meaning that the fees cannot be applied toward other costs associated with producing community shows.

He said the five Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods had been in talks with the Grosse Pointe Public School System to try and come up with programming to replace the programming that had been produced for decades by The War Memorial through its cable channel, but the new FCC rules also largely eliminated that option. Dame said that, in February, the 10-year agreement the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods had with The War Memorial to provide local programming and PEG channel support through area cable systems ended.

Further complicating the situation, any PEG fees not used solely for equipment could be deducted by cable companies from the franchise fees paid to municipalities for their use of the public right of way, Dame explained.

“Due to the stumbling block of these new FCC rules, it’s not possible to fund (the creation of programming) anymore,” Dame said during a June 15 Grosse Pointe City Council meeting via Zoom.

Park Mayor Robert Denner said the purpose of PEG fees was “to provide community-based programming over cable.” The internet changed that.

“Over time, (cable TV) became an obsolete way to communicate information to the public,” Denner said.

“The evolution of (social media and content streaming) technology is what brought us to this (point),” Denner continued.

In addition, many households no longer subscribe to cable, opting for streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu or Disney+.

Sizeland said the city’s Communications Committee is looking into options for possibly recording and streaming council meetings once they’re over, perhaps by using the court camera — council meetings are usually held in the municipal courtroom — or a smartphone or YouTube Live.

“We can look to do something at a relatively low cost,” Sizeland told the council.

Posting meeting videos on the city’s website is another option, once officials determine the best way to record them.

“Everything is available online now,” City Councilman Vikas Relan said. “I think it’s a good idea.”

However, even though many households now have internet access, not all of them do.

“I strongly support this (fee) elimination,” City Councilman Daniel Grano said. “A lot of people have cut the cord. … But I am concerned about the lack of public access.”

City Councilwoman Lauri Read asked what would happen to the fees that residents had already paid since March.

Sizeland responded that the city had been holding onto those funds and would forward those to the cable companies to refund them to their customers.