Charter Communications has filed suit against the city of Louisville, Ky., over what it says are materially more burdensome regulations and franchise obligations it is subject to relative to video competitors Google Fiber and AT&T's U-verse.
Wearing its First Amendment hat, Charter said that the government "may not favor one similarly situated member of the press or other speaker over another without special justification," which it said Louisville Metro lacked.
Given that the city refused to lighten Charter subsidiary Insight Kentucky Partners's regulatory load to bring it in line with its competitors, Charter said it had no choice but to head to court. (Charter acquired the Louisville market this year after merging with Time Warner Cable.)
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
Charter's main points are that it is simply asking for the equal treatment state and federal law allows; that consumers will suffer if competitors can move its wires around without telling Charter and that treating competitors differently hurts, rather than promotes, cable competition.
Cable operators have not been pleased generally with the incentives municipalities have been extended to Google to provide competitive service. AT&T's U-verse is not treated as a cable system by the city in terms of franchising, but instead under a historic telecom franchise, which Charter says is not fair.
Charter in its suit said Louisville had passed an ordinance that allowed Google to move Insight's wires to different locations on utility poles without notice so that Insight can't monitor the process for possible damage to its plant from a competitor. AT&T also opposed that ordinance, and sued to block it.
The so-called One Touch procedure allows Insight's competitors to disrupt its ability to serve its customers, on purpose or by accident, according to Charter.
Charter wants the court to force the city to apply the same regulations to AT&T and Google that it does to the Charter subsidiary and to not allow competitors to potentially damage Charter property.
AT&T declined comment. A spokesperson in the Louisville mayor's press office was not available for comment.