Yet Another City Moves To Block Comcast From Taking Over Their TWC Service



Comcast’s plans to buy Time Warner Cable are obviously heavily under review at the federal level, and states are reviewing the merger plans with a gimlet eye as well. But thanks to the quirks of the way cable agreements developed, the cities that cable companies serve have the power to allow or block new companies from coming in and taking over. And a city in Kentucky this week became the latest potentially to throw a wrench in the grand Comcast/Time Warner Cable/Charter plan by doing just that.

The central Kentucky city of Danville this week took action to prevent the transfer of their cable from TWC to Comcast, according to local media.

On Monday, the Danville City Commission voted unanimously to approve the first reading of two ordinances related to the merger. The first would deny the transfer of the city’s service from TWC to Comcast. The second would deny the transfer from Comcast to Charter. The City Commission could pass the ordinances as soon as November 10.

Under Kentucky law (as in most states), cable companies must obtain a franchise agreement from a city in order to operate there. As the Advocate-Messenger explains, Danville last issued a franchise agreement in 2003, to Adelphia. Time Warner Cable purchased Adelphia in 2009, but continued to provide service under the terms of the earlier contract.

Because the franchise agreement is expired, city officials had an opportunity to address existing issues in negotiating a new agreement with TWC — one that would then be transferred to Comcast.

But TWC has apparently not been amenable to the city’s requests. The Danville City Attorney told the Advocate-Messenger that there are “serious non-compliancy issues” with the existing, expired franchise agreement. “We had been in discussion with representatives of Time Warner Cable for a long period of time,” he added, “however, we have been unsuccessful in negotiating the outstanding non-compliance issues.”

Among the issues in the negotiation between TWC and Danville were the retention of a local office in Danville, a fiber connection to the city hall, continued service of the local public access channel, and free service to local civic buildings and schools. A lawyer retained by the city also pointed to Comcast’s customer service record as a contributing factor.

A Danville city comissioner told the Advocate-Messenger, “I think the things we are asking for are very reasonable and very important for the public. We have a lot of people that rely on the public access channel for several things — people who can’t go out to church and a lot of people who watch broadcasts of City Commission meetings … It’s not a lot to ask of a company for the business we generate.”

Danville joins another Kentucky city, Lexington, as well as the central Massachusetts city of Worcester in taking steps to prevent Comcast from taking over the local cable franchise license.

In Worcester’s case, the city is currently served by Charter and would be spun off to Comcast as part of the “no, no, we’re not a monopoly, see?” customer swap the companies have arranged. Lexington, like Danville, is currently served by TWC but would be transferred eventually through Comcast to Charter as part of the same shuffle.

Danville moves to deny Time Warner Cable transfer of agreement to Comcast [The Advocate-Messenger]