News

R.I. Op Fighting Cox Overbuild

8/09/2001 8:46 AM Eastern

A small Rhode Island cable operator has gone to court in hopes of
scuttling a planned overbuild by Cox Communications Inc., the state's dominant
MSO.

On July 23, Full Channel TV asked a Rhode Island Superior Court to overturn a
hearing examiner's ruling that would allow Cox to compete for 11,500 cable
viewers in the towns of Barrington, Bristol and Warren, or 'Area 5,' as
designated by the state.

In seeking to overturn the decision, it argued that examiner Thomas F. Ahern
ignored Full Channel's statutory rights in issuing a ruling that was 'arbitrary
and capricious.'

Full Channel claimed that Ahern's decision 'arbitrarily' allows Cox to skirt
state cable regulations requiring that an operator build and maintain an
institutional/industrial network that operates separately from its commercial
network.

'The administrator's decision to defer this examination to another docket and
proceed with the compliance-order certificate is arbitrary, capricious and
amounts to an abuse of discretion,' according to the company's filing.

Full Channel also argued that Ahern did not consider a statute prohibiting
any overbuilder from entering the market under terms more favorable or less
burdensome than those imposed on the incumbent.

It's also opposing Cox's entry into the market on grounds that the
Atlanta-based MSO will not be required to offer the same number of public,
educational and governmental channels as Full Channel delivers in Area 5.

'Competition is a red herring,' Full Channel president John Donofrio said in
a prepared statement. 'I've always been in favor of competition, but granting
Cox the right to overbuild without properly applying the law, and allowing them
to not follow the same rules as Full Channel and as the original companies
followed in the beginning, would be unfair and wrong.'

Full Channel wants the decision reversed or remanded back to Ahern for
further review.

The state's Department of Public Utilities and Carriers responded Wednesday
by filing a motion with the court seeking to have Full Channel's appeal
dismissed or remanded back to the agency.

Cox officials said they were not surprised by the appeal, noting that it was
'consistent with Mr. Donofrio's efforts to deny competition in Bristol
County.'

'We believe [the appeal] is without merit,' said John Wolfe, Cox's vice
president of government and public affairs for the New England region. 'The
state's decision is well grounded in the facts, and it is in the public
interest.'

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