Blaming TWC’s Poor Service, City May Deny Transfer Of Cable To Comcast

Two years ago, the people of Lexington, KY, became Time Warner Cable customers when the company acquired Insight Communications. Now TWC is being bought by Comcast, meaning Lexington residents would be switched again. But it gets more complicated, as Lexington is one of the markets that Comcast would then hand over to Charter. Four different cable companies in fewer than five years has members of the Lexington city council saying “no more.”

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, during a council work session earlier this week, the city leaders agreed to put two resolutions on tonight’s public meeting. Both resolutions deal with possibly refusing to hand over cable service to their new cable overlords.

TWC’s franchise agreement with Lexington, the agreement that gives the company exclusive rights to deliver pay-TV service in the area, actually expired in 2012. The city and TWC have been negotiating since then, all the while consumers have been complaining loudly about the quality of their new service.

Mayor Jim Gray says that TWC has refused to discuss the issues of poor customer service.

“We have worked aggressively and vigorously to negotiate these terms with Time Warner,” Gray explained. “They have just not been reasonable. We are looking for better customer service and they are not willing to offer it. That’s why the council took the action that it did today.”

A rep for TWC tells the Herald-Leader that “Time Warner Cable continues to work with the city of Lexington, and we hope to reach an agreement in the best interest of our customers.”

The mayor says the city “will not approve” the transfer of ownership without certain promises of improved service.

Of course, the issue there is that ultimately Comcast can’t really make those promises; Charter has to.

See, in order to make the Time Warner Cable acquisition more palatable to federal antitrust regulators, the combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable plans to divest itself of millions of customers by handing them off to Charter or spinning them of into a new cable provider called Greatland.

Lexington is one of the current TWC markets that would be given to Charter, but only after the Comcast merger is complete. So it looks like the city would need to reach sign off on handing over its franchise to both Comcast and then Charter.

And so the city council will consider two resolutions tonight. One would deny transfer of ownership from TWC to Comcast; a second could deny that transfer from Comcast to Charter.

The city has until Nov. 14 to approve or deny the transfer of ownership.

One option the city may explore is allowing other cable companies to bid on the franchise agreement. Problem is, the cable infrastructure in Lexington is largely owned by TWC, so any bid would need to include an offer to TWC to buy/lease that network, or the city could get involved in a legal battle.


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