The Warrick County Board of Commissioners in southwestern
Indiana got its first look last week at an ordinance terminating Century Communications
Corp.'s local cable franchise.
Two of the board's members were scheduled to review
the ordinance at their regular biweekly meeting last Monday, but no action was expected to
be taken until chairman David Rector returns next week.
Century officials, meanwhile, said the commission was using
nonexistent service issues to cover for the fact that it's unhappy with the
County attorney Terry White was recently instructed to
launch termination proceedings against Century after he informed the commission that the
company had not responded to a March letter demanding proof that it was providing a
"quality signal" to some 6,700 area cable subscribers.
"We're still waiting for that proof," White
White added that the county believes Century has breached
its franchise, which calls for it 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.
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 passed, the county will file a lawsuit
seeking a declaratory judgment recognizing its actions, he added.
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.
Moreover, he added, Century's service calls are
running at fewer than 1 percent, or well below the industry average.
"So basically, I think it boils down to rates,"
Hill said. "We're trying to get to some common ground. We have the information
they want, and we have given them opportunities to get it. But it's up to the
commission to allow us to get together. It has to be a two-way thing."
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
The termination proceedings are only the latest squabble
between Century and the commission.
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 operator'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 reasons why it objected to Century's new rates.