The Warrick County Board of Commissioners in southwestern
Indiana has given Century Communications Corp. 60 days to clean up its act or face
termination of its local cable franchise.
Two of the board's three members recently voted to approve
an ordinance lifting Century's franchise after the company failed to respond to the
commission's demand for proof that it was providing a "quality signal" to 6,700
area cable subscribers.
However, after a meeting in executive session with Century
officials, the commission decided to delay a second reading on the ordinance until late
August. The delay presumably gives the MSO time to remedy its service problems.
"I can't tell you what happened in the executive
session, but I think you could infer that," Warrick County attorney Terry White said.
"We want to try and work it out to the point that it satisfies the public need."
The commission instructed White to launch termination
proceedings against Century in June over what it considered the company's failure to offer
a quality picture and to provide evidence to local officials that its signal is of
adequate strength and that it meets Federal Communications Commission technical standards.
However, Mike Hill, general manager for the Century system,
said he appeared at an April 12 commission meeting. At White's urging, he requested that
the board meet in executive session to discuss the alleged service problems. The
commission agreed, he said, but it never called to give him a date for the meeting.
Under the franchise, Warrick County has the right to
terminate the 15-year deal once it gives Century 60 days' notice and passes an ordinance
announcing its intentions, White said.
If the ordinance is ultimately passed, the county will file
a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment recognizing its actions, he added.
Hill countered by arguing that Century's service calls are
running at less than 1 percent, or well below the industry average. "So basically, I
think it boils down to rates," he said.
Commissioners voted in March to reject the company's latest
round of rate hikes -- a 6 percent increase that added $1.82 per month to the cost of
basic cable. "Century Select," the company's expanded-basic tier, increased 52
cents per month, or 2 percent.
The county subsequently filed a complaint with the FCC over
the higher basic rates -- a petition the agency rejected because the county did not
provide adequate proof as to why it objected to Century's new rates.
However, White said, Century's service-call figures were
not supported by consumer reaction.
"When we decided to take these people on, it was
amazing how many calls we got from their customers about how bad the signal is," he