A group of Arlington condominium owners argued last night for the right to obtain their own cable television system, separate from the one franchised by the county.
The occasion was a sparsely attended hearing by the county's Cable Television Advisory Committee on the proposed $33 million sale of the county's franchise by Arlington Telecommunications Inc. (Artec) to Arlington Cable Partners, a company owned by affiliates of Hauser Communications Inc. and Odyssey Partners.
The County Board has set a similar hearing for Nov. 19, when it will consider the advisory committee's recommendations. The board cannot block sale of the franchise but may approve or disapprove the transfer of the operating license.
The request for a separate cable system came from the Colonial Village Council, a condominium homeowner group. James Covey, council president, asked that any new franchise agreement exclude the Courthouse-area Colonial Village complex so that his group could set up a satellite antenna dish.
Covey said the decision stems from Artec's request that the homeowners pay $6,000 for rewiring to replace the wiring installed by the Mobil Oil Corp., which bought and has undertaken extensive redevelopment of the former garden apartment complex.
Tom Richards, an Artec executive who would remain on the job under the proposed new management, stressed that the firm is "most anxious to serve every customer we can in Arlington."
He told the advisory panel that Artec did not have access to the complex to install the wiring, which must meet federal regulations requiring that there be no signal "leakage" that interferes with air navigation.
Joseph D. Lewis, advisory committee chairman, told Covey that Artec did not have exclusive rights to cable television broadcasts in Arlington and that the homeowners were free to negotiate with another franchiser if they wished.
But Lewis urged them to pursue talks with Artec and the county's cable administrator, Ron Carlee.
Lewis said later he believed it was unlikely that a separate cable television system could be set up because of operational costs and that it was unlikely there would be any countywide change in cable television service.
The advisory committee also heard pleas from several county residents for more news about the state legislature over the cable system.
Artec is asking the Federal Communications Commission for a waiver of the "must-carry" rule that would require it to broadcast Channel 56, a Fairfax-based public education station that features extensive coverage of local political campaigns and coverage of the General Assembly.
Artec officials have contended the station duplicates programming available on other channels and have maintained the dispute should be settled by the FCC at a future hearing.
The station can be received without cable, but some citizens argued that its reception is poor and that other "must-carry" stations from Maryland should be dropped in favor of Channel 56 or that the channel should be placed on one of those set aside for the county government for schools.