Incumbent operators in Miami and Dade County, Fla., have
tried, with varying degrees of success, to block a move by BellSouth Interactive Media
Services into the digital-wireless business in the area.
Recently, a state court judge ruled against the operators
-- including Tele-Communications Inc., MediaOne, Rifkin & Associates Inc. and Adelphia
Communications Corp. -- issuing a summary judgment in favor of the telco.
The cable operators alleged that Miami-Dade Cable
Communications' licensing division did not abide by traditional timetables and
information-gathering procedures before awarding a cable license to BellSouth.
Terry Bienstock, attorney for the cable operators, said the
ruling was limited to 'very technical issues,' and not about the legality of the
action taken by county officials. The operators have filed for reconsideration of the
The incumbents believe that the license violates the
state's 'level-playing-field' statute, as well as federal build-out
'Basically, BellSouth came in here and told the
county, 'If you don't eliminate build-out, we won't accept a
franchise,'' Bienstock said.
BellSouth representatives declined to comment on
Bienstock's account of events.
A parallel lawsuit in federal court in Miami is in the
discovery phase, Bienstock said.
A year ago, BellSouth spent nearly $50 million for licenses
and infrastructure owned by National Wireless Holdings in the Miami area. BellSouth
spokesman Tim Klein said all of the frequency licenses have been transferred to the telco.
'Miami remains high on the priority list for us. If we
get all of the clearances that we need, we anticipate launching next year,' Klein
BellSouth has launched a digital-wireless system in New
Orleans, which includes 130 channels of local-broadcast and national-satellite signals.
Programming packages range from $15 to $80 monthly.
Klein said BellSouth has a wired franchise for the Miami
area, in addition to the wireless licenses.
Cable operators said they don't mind competitors, but
they complained when the county commission dropped a 23-year-old policy calling for
franchise build-outs when approving BellSouth's franchise in 1997. Cable executives
argued that build-out costs were recovered by monopoly rents.
'We built out, and then they changed the rules,'