Franchise Dispute? Call These Folks


Cable veterans, attorneys and regulators have joined together to form a firm that seeks to arbitrate disputes between cable operators and franchise authorities in hopes of keeping such conflicts out of court.

"So often, disputes are sent to mediation before they can go to court, and we find we have to educate the judges," said Miami attorney Matt Leibowitz, one of the founding members of Communications Dispute Resolutions LLC. "It's not that they aren't smart, they just haven't spent an incredible amount of time on the niche."

The roster for the new venture includes cable veterans such as former Time Warner New York City president Dick Aurelio and Michael Tauck, former regional government-affairs director for Comcast Corp. in Florida.

Past Federal Communications Commission employees in the venture include former Cable Services Bureau chief Deborah Lathen, commissioner Rachelle Chong and administrative law judge Joseph Stirmer. Past National Association of Telecommunications Officials and Advisers president Ron Mallard and former state utility regulators Joan Smith of Oregon and Julia L. Johnson of Florida will also participate.

Senior analysts from Kagan World Media — John Mansell, Larry Gerbrandt, Robin V. Flynn and Derek Baine — are also involved.

The firm intends to mediate cable disputes such as broadband deployment, bulk programming contracts, customer service, effective competition, franchise terms and fee payments. But it will also solicit business from broadcast, Internet, print, satellite and other media.