The five-member County Council unanimously approved the transfer of Howard County Cable Television Associates Inc. stock to its parent company last night over the protest of dissatisfied customers.
Two subscribers, speaking on behalf of a group called Alliance for Better Cable, wanted the council to use the stock transfer as leverage to get better service, more programming and cheaper rates.
The council said it did not have authority to attach strings to the stock transfer, but was sure service would improve because of public pressure, if for no other reason.
Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, said it would be inappropriate to hold the cable company hostage over an internal matter involving its stockholders.
Richard F. Kirchner disagreed. "We can't simply wait until the Federal Communications Commission, acting under the authority of the new cable TV act, ponderously begins to reregulate the cable TV industry," he said. Howard Cable is doing a "deplorable job" in comparison with surrounding counties, Harold Hilliard III told the council. "You shouldn't be advocates of the cable company or its stockholders, you should be advocates of the citizens in Howard County."
"Citizens with complaints get a short shrift" from the cable advisory committee -- a group of citizens appointed by the county executive -- because of what appears to be a "cable company bias, at least as far as Howard Cable TV is concerned," Mr. Kirchner said.
"While we recognize that the county lost its regulatory authority in 1974, it is our judgment that these county representatives have a duty to be proactive agents for our citizens, not spokespersons for the cable company," he said.
Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, said that without competition or regulatory authority, the only solution is the one she uses. "I don't have it," she said, referring to cable service.