Cable F.A.Q


At the request of the ICTC, our Production Coordinator has put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions about various aspects of the history, the current status, and the future of the local cable regulation.

If you have questions or comments, you can reach Production Coordinator Ty Coleman at 356-5046.

Q: What does the Cable TV Division do?

A: The Cable TV Division works to monitor and regulate the cable company. The Cable TV Division also resolves cable-related complaints that can't be resolved with Mediacom. In addition we run City Channel 4 and Interactive Channel 5.

Q: Do you handle subscriber complaints?

A: If you are unable to resolve an issue with Mediacom you can contact Ty Coleman at 356-5046 or use our online complaint form. While the City does not have legal authority over Internet and telephone service, the City can work with Mediacom to resolve problems.

Q: What kind of complaints can't you handle?

A: There are a number of complaints the City can't resolve and have no control over. Those that come up most often include: lack of competition, rates, and channel lineups. The City has no legal authority over Mediacom’s Internet and phone service but can assist in resolving problems with those services.

Q: Why is my Internet speed slower than advertised?

A: There are numerous factors that have an impact on the amount of bandwidth available to you. One factor is the number of people online at a time in your neighborhood. Mediacom advertises the maximum speed it can deliver to you. Real speeds are typically half that amount according to FCC surveys. If you consistently are getting speeds significantly less than allotted or never approach that amount, there may be inefficiencies in the way the your computer is connected to the cables or with the cables themselves. A guide to troubleshooting those problems is available here. You can check your speed at sites like speakeasy.net/speedtest/ or bandwidthplace.com.

Q: Why is there no cable competition in Iowa City?

A: There is no prohibition of competition in Iowa City. In fact, over the years the City of Iowa City has sought out companies to provide competition. Few communities have competitive cable providers. Underlying economic factors such as demographics and the presence of existing infrastructure play a large role in making a community attractive for a competitor. More and more, telephone companies are offering video services. At some point they may offer services in Iowa City.

Q: Don't some cities start their own cable TV systems?

A: There are municipally owned cable systems. In fact, Iowa has more municipally owned cable systems than any other state. However, virtually all of the cities that have a municipally owned cable system also have a municipally owned electric utility, which make providing municipal cable TV service much more economically efficient. Recent legislation passed in Iowa make the financing of a start-up municipal cable TV system more difficult.

Q: Why are cable rates so high in Iowa City?

A. Actually, cable rates in Iowa City are about average for comparable service with other communities across the nation. According to the latest FCC information (covering rates for 2008) the expanded basic tier, or Family Package, the national average was 72.8 channels at a charge of $49.97 for noncompetitive systems. Iowa City rates in 2008 were $54.95 for 77 channels. Nationally, the rate is $0.686 per channel. The Iowa City rate is $0.714 per channel. Iowa City has a basic tier rate (channel 2-22) that is much lower than most communities. That is because the basic tier is subject to rate regulation and the City of Iowa City has taken responsibility to regulate theses rates according to FCC procedures. In 2011 the basic tier rate for Iowa City is $12.95. In the unincorporated area outside Iowa City with the same channel lineup the basic tier rate is $25.

Q: Why can't subscribers just pay for the channels they want?

A: This issue has been the subject to a long-term debated in Congress and the FCC. Cable companies that do not also own multiple program providers, such as Mediacom do not object to such arrangements. However, a small number of program providers provide most of the programs and require contracts of cable providers to carry all of their channels and will not provide them on a per channel basis. In addition, some studies have shown that even with a per channel option that rates would not decline. Other studies suggest that some niche channels that don't have a large audience could cease to exist as fewer people would pay for them and it wouldn't be enough ad revenue to sustain them.

Q: Is there anything that can be done about the violence and sexually explicit nature of some programming on cable TV?

A: Mediacom does not currently offer a package of programming suitable for all members of the family. Other cable TV providers do offer such a service. Parents can disable objectionable channels through the digital convert boxes or through their television controls.

Q: How many local access channels does Iowa City have, and what do they do?

A: The local access channels exist to let you know more about your community. Some channels receive viewership rates as high as the average programming on the Family Package channels such as Discovery, A & E and BET. The Iowa City local access channels are:

  • Channels 4 and 5 - Government Access
    The Iowa City Cable TV Division operates Channels 4 and 5. Channel 4 is the local government channel that brings you City Council meetings and programming The Community Television Service offers any nonprofit organization in Iowa City assistance in making a public service announcement or video program - from idea stage to script, production, post production and distribution - free of charge.
  • Channel 11 - Kirkwood Community College
    Kirkwood offers a wide range of programming from Kirkwood sporting events to old movies to educational programs.
  • Channel 18 - Public Access
    The Public Access channel offers an outlet for any programs community members wish to create. Programming is as diverse as the community and ranges from church services to talk shows to coverage of community events. Channel 18 is operated by a nonprofit organization under contract with the City.
  • Channel 20 - Iowa City Public Library
    The Library Channel offers programming of events occurring at the library such as children’s storytime programs, University of Iowa International Writing Program events, public meetings and community events held in the library’s meeting rooms.
  • Channel 21 - The Iowa City Community School District
    Channel 21 carries the school district meetings such as the board meetings, PTO meetings, district forums, school events, and other school district programs.
Q: How can citizens become involved?

A: The City created a citizen commission for cable TV related matters called the Iowa City Telecommunications Commission or ICTC. This is an advisory body to City Council whose five members are appointed by City Council. The Commission studies cable TV, helps negotiate franchises, oversees complaints, takes reports from the access channels, meets with the cable company on a variety of issues, can hold public hearings, does triennial reviews of the cable company, conducts periodic reviews and evaluations of the company and makes recommendations to City Council.

You can find out more about the ICTC at icgov.org

All ICTC meetings take place the fourth Monday of every month, at 5:30PM unless posted otherwise. They meet at 10 S. Linn St., Third floor, in the Cable TV Offices.

You can find franchise information here, or at the City Clerk's office.