AT&T Broadband & Internet Services last week agreed
to pay $967,000 to some 50,000 subscribers in Plano, Texas, ending four years of
squabbling over local cable rates.
The settlement with Plano city officials cleans up a series
of rate cases that have languished at the Federal Communications Commission since 1996.
In its most recent action, Plano ordered AT&T Broadband
to shave 35 cents off its 1999 basic rate. The MSO secured an emergency stay from the FCC,
which also put a hold on similar rate orders in the nearby Dallas suburbs of Arlington and
Under the settlement, Plano subscribers will get $4.98
credits during each of the next four months, city attorney Diane Wetherbee said.
AT&T Broadband will also stop collecting a
30-cent-per-month surcharge it was using to recoup costs that predecessor
Tele-Communications Inc. incurred for unpaid franchise fees.
Finally, the MSO will contribute $133,000 to the city
"And the city did not give up its right to review
future rate increases," Wetherbee said.
Bob Miller, Plano's outside counsel, said the city and
AT&T Broadband have settled on the methodology the operator will use to calculate
service and equipment costs, thereby reducing the chances for future rate disagreements.
AT&T is negotiating a similar settlement in Arlington,
which also has four consecutive rate cases pending before the FCC.
Jennifer Lowry, assistant to the Arlington city manager,
said negotiators hope to have a final agreement ready for the City Council to vote on at
its Oct. 5 meeting.
At press time, Richardson officials had not responded to
calls for comment. But AT&T Broadband executives said Richardson officials have been
unwilling to enter into settlement talks. The Richardson City Council has ordered a
35-cent reduction in basic rates for 1999.
"We've been very impressed with the spirit of
cooperation we found in Plano and Arlington," AT&T Broadband spokeswoman Angel
Biasatti said, "and we're hopeful that we can work something out with