March 5, 2004
By BRENDA SCHORY
Kane County Chronicle
GENEVA — GHS-TV was set to broadcast Geneva High School's
daily announcements to every classroom when they discovered their
channel had been hijacked.
Comcast last week juggled its channel lineup to include three
new channels. In doing so, it appropriated Channel 72, which the
high school had used for its daily in-house broadcast to homerooms,
for one of the three new channels. The high school station was switched
to Channel 99.
The change came without warning and also prompted complains from
Tri-Cities subscribers who said they were not notified of the changes.
"Comcast changed our station from Channel 72 ... without
any warning," said Cheryl Curtin, who teaches English and TV
production at the school.
Comcast spokeswoman Pat Keenan said Tri-Cities subscribers were
notified by letter, messages in cable bills and newspaper advertisements
that some channels would change because of three new stations, Gala
Vision, Golf and Outdoor Life. There is no cost increase for the
The notification went out early last month. But Geneva High School
is a free account, not a paid subscriber, so it was not notified,
"According to the agreement, Comcast has to provide us with
a channel. It does not have to be the same channel. This is the
second time they switched us. They did it last year," Curtin
"Because those are free, we don't do letters to them,"
Keenan said of the high school's channel access for local broadcasts.
She said that after talking to Comcast's marketing department,
they decided, "It is probably a good idea to send a separate
letter to them, a free account." As for when Comcast might
appropriate Channel 99 for another station, Keenan said, "We
no plans for additional changes."
To solve its problem, school technicians disconnected the cable
for three school days, from Feb. 26 to March 1, until the school's
televisions and broadcast equipment could be switched to Channel
99. The signal is available only within the school. During those
days, teachers could not use cable stations for teaching.
"It's disruptive," said Elizabeth Janowiak, technology
director for Geneva schools.
Fifth Ward Alderman Craig Maladra said he received calls from
constituents about the channel changes and questioned whether Comcast
provided enough notice to subscribers.
"This one came about with no notice at all as far as I can
tell. To me, it's just another example of lack of partnership. They
are a service provider, and the level of service you get is not
really that high," Maladra said.
Peter Collins, Geneva information systems supervisor, also received
phone calls from subscribers who did not know about the changes.
He said everything Comcast sends to the city will be posted on its
Web site at www.geneva.il.us.
While the high school's problem was solved, it comes as little
consolation for the three days that the its TV production crew was
disrupted and teachers were inconvenienced.
"We changed it to Channel 99 — you just flip through
the stations and find which channels are not being used. The teachers
have to change their channels over to 99 where the school signal
is. It's a big mess. It's a really big mess," Curtin said.
"If they had passed the (municipal broadband) referendum
for the city getting fiber ... we would not have to worry about
this any more," she said.
Last spring, voters rejected a request from Geneva, Batavia and
St. Charles to create a municipal broadband fiber-optic network.
Comcast and SBC campaigned heavily against it.
Janowiak and Curtin said the district's TV studio could become
a public access channel through the city. Collins said that would
open for negotiations when Comcast's franchise agreement comes due
Reprinted by permission Kane County Chronicle