AT&T Broadband & Internet Services and officials in
Arlington, Texas, reached an agreement last week under which the company will pay $928,000
to settle four years' worth of rate disputes.
The deal resolves long-standing grievances over basic-cable
costs and equipment and installation charges that had sat at the Federal Communications
Commission since 1996.
It also marks the second settlement announced by AT&T
Broadband in the Dallas Metroplex area, coming on the heels of a $967,000 agreement
between the company and nearby Plano, Texas.
The Arlington City Council approved the settlement with an
8-0 vote last week. Both sides have agreed to withdraw their complaints pending before the
"This agreement exemplifies the seriousness with which
we approach our role as a corporate citizen and provider of good services at a reasonable
price," AT&T Broadband spokeswoman Pat Bustos-Robinson said in a prepared
statement. "We're extremely pleased with the cooperative relationship that has
developed through this process, and we are looking forward to fostering this relationship
in the future."
Under the terms of the deal, 58,000 Arlington subscribers
will receive $16 in refunds in the form of $8 credits on their December and January
AT&T Broadband also agreed to cap next year's increase
in basic-cable rates at 7 percent, or well below what it estimates it could charge in
order to recoup the cost of a $14 million upgrade of its local network. This means that
basic cable can only increase 75 cents per month next year, or from $10.75 to $11.50.
"We think it's a fair agreement, and that our
subscribers are getting a good refund," said Jennifer Howry, assistant to the
Arlington city manager. "And the city has not given up any rights to review rates now
or in the future."
The two sides have been grappling over local rates for the
past four years. In its most recent rate order, Arlington demanded a 13-cent reduction in
basic rates in 1999 -- an order AT&T Broadband managed to delay by obtaining an
emergency stay from the FCC.
The stay also prevented Arlington from enforcing a new
cable ordinance that would make it a misdemeanor for the company not to abide by the
city's rate order.
Meanwhile, it was not immediately known whether AT&T
Broadband was negotiating a similar settlement with Richardson, Texas, which is demanding
that the company shave 35 cents per month off its local basic rate.