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Clarke proposal would give city cable competitor


Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke introduced a resolution last night calling on the Board of Estimates to open the market for cable television companies to compete with United Artists Cable of Baltimore.

Proclaiming that "the citizens of Baltimore City deserve the consumer-friendly service which competitive systems will offer," the resolution requests that the board solicit franchise applications from potential rivals to the Tele-Communications Inc. affiliate.

"We welcome the competition," said United Artists General Manager Coles Ruff.

The resolution also urges the board to give preference to minority and female-owned applicants based in Baltimore. The proposal is not binding on the Board of Estimates, but it would make cable competition the stated policy of the city government.

Ms. Clarke's resolution, which was referred to the Policy and Planning Committee, came less than two weeks after a small Baltimore company, UltraVision LLC, expressed its interest in building a second cable network to challenge United Artists in Baltimore. UltraVision is owned by local businessman Gary Goldberg. His wife, a Sun reporter, owns a minority stake.

United Artists, an affiliate of Tele-Communications Inc., has come under criticism from Mayor Kurt Schmoke for its failure to provide required equipment, such as remote controls and set-top boxes, in timely fashion.

United Artists' service will be the subject of an annual hearing at 7:30 tonight at City Hall.

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