The California State University system has filed a
breach-of-contract lawsuit against Tele-Communications Inc. on behalf of its Hayward
The educational organization alleged that the cable company
has not lived up to a contractual obligation to program distance-learning courses from the
Northern California campus to systems surrounding the college. The system consists of 23
universities and polytechnic schools throughout the state.
Parties on both sides said they have been discussing the
programming issue for more than one year, but attorneys from CSU headquarters in Long
Beach, the Hayward provost and others failed to convince TCI to fulfill its commitment.
University officials said TCI executives simply said the obligation "is
TCI declined to discuss the situation, citing the pending
litigation. Andrew Johnson, a spokesman for TCI of California, said the suit
"completely surprised" the operator.
The relationship between the university and the cable
industry began in 1987, when United Cable Television of the Bay Area, then the local
operator, contacted CSU Hayward with a request to use the hillside campus for its main
Indeed, today, a dish is perched atop the university's
In order to clinch the original deal, according to the
university, the operator agreed to pay rent for use of the university's property and
to sign a contract committing the system to, in effect, a regional college channel.
Two years later, TCI bought United. Since the acquisition,
TCI has renewed the contract with little change in the original language. The contract
states that as long as the rental agreement is in effect, TCI is to dedicate one channel
to Hayward in all of its regional cable operations.
According to Mike Orkin, general manager of CableNet TV of
CSU Hayward, telecourses and other educational programming should be delivered to TCI
affiliates in Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin and
Solano counties and parts of Sacramento and San Joaquin counties.
Instead, CableNet's programming -- which includes 18
hours of astronomy, biology, Mandarin language and other courses -- is only available in
the college's hometown and its immediate vicinity.
CSU said expansion of program delivery is important because
the telecourses could expand enrollment with tuition-paying distance-learning students.
"I'm really frustrated with the situation. They
promise this and that, but they never do anything," said Orkin, who is also a
statistics professor at Hayward.
University officials also saw irony in TCI's support
of education -- such as its strong backing of Cable in the Classroom and the construction
of its own learning center -- while it stymies Hayward's cable expansion.
The CSU system is seeking a temporary injunction to force
its programming onto TCI plant as soon as possible. A hearing on the suit is scheduled in
the Hayward Hall of Justice Feb. 24.
The university system also wants compensatory damages and a
permanent injunction to ensure its place on the plant.