Cablevision Systems Corp. has shifted the fight over its
cable franchise in Brunswick and Brunswick Hills, Ohio, to a federal court in Cleveland.
The MSO has asked the U.S. District Court to overrule the
two franchising authorities, which recently denied a renewal on the grounds that
Cablevision didn't live up to its expired deal, then offered a franchise that did not meet
their future needs.
It alleged that the decisions were based on a "biased
[review], or no review," of the administrative record reviewed by an independent
examiner during an eight-day hearing.
Community officials denied the allegation in asking the
court to dismiss the part of Cablevision's lawsuit that seeks forfeitures and legal fees.
Meanwhile, Brunswick cable coordinator Jeff Neidert said
the city "stands by its decision."
"We assumed that they were going to do this,"
Neidert said, adding that the franchise has been extended through August while the appeal
If the court does not act by then, the franchise -- which
originally expired in 1996 -- will likely be extended again "in order to continue
service," he added.
Cablevision filed its lawsuit after Brunswick refused to
renew its franchise, instead ordering the company to come up with a plan outlining how a
12,000-subscriber network serving Brunswick and Brunswick Hills would be transferred to a
new operator or dismantled.
In its appeal, Cablevision alleged that city officials
rejected its renewal proposal despite a ruling by an independent examiner that said the
city was making unjustifiable demands and recommended that Cablevision's franchise be
Specifically, the examiner said, the city was not
considering the cost of its demands, as required by federal law, nor the public's
unwillingness to pay for the new services.
Cablevision vice president Carol Caruso said it was curious
that the cities chose to "disregard" the finding of an independent examiner
"that they chose themselves."
"They ignored the judge's findings, which were
overwhelmingly in favor of renewing our franchise," she added.
Neidert countered by arguing that the examiner's decision
"was not binding. The council has the prerogative, legally, not to follow that
Cablevision claimed that the city's demands would have
hiked area cable bills by up to $5 per month. "And that was for services our
customers did not want," Caruso said.
Moreover, the city rejected a counterproposal that would
have provided a $6 million upgrade, additional channels, an institutional network and
enhancements to three PEG-access (public, educational and government) channels, Caruso
Other grievances cited by the city included allegations
that Cablevision violated its franchise by closing its PEG studio; that it failed to
maintain proper staffing levels at the studio; and that it did not provide a dedicated PEG
channel, as required by its franchise.
"By rejecting Cablevision, Brunswick is not only
upholding federal law, but we're standing up for our cable customers," Neidert said.
"Cablevision's proposal failed to meet the community's needs in the past, and they
show no signs of doing any better in the future."