King County, TCI Tussle Over Rebuild


A request by Tele-Communications Inc. for modifications to
its franchise in King County, Wash., has drawn a surprisingly heated response from one
local regulator.

County executive Ron Sims last week asked the King County
Council to reject TCI's requests to push back the completion date for rebuilding its
local system by 20 months and for the right to change the architectural makeup of the new

In a prepared statement, Sims asked the council to join him
"in letting TCI know that the community expects TCI to live up to the commitments
that it has already made."

Under its 1996 franchise, TCI agreed to rebuild its system
and to assist in constructing an institutional network within three years.

However, TCI now wants to move the date for completing the
rebuild of the 75,000-subscriber system from March 1, 1999, to October 31, 2000. It also
wants to decrease the amount of fiber in some areas and to increase the number of homes
served by each line.

"I am extremely disappointed in TCI's failure to
meet its commitments to this community," Sims said. "At this point, the only
acceptable solution will be that TCI will meet its obligations in full, without further

Leslie Collins, acting manager for the proposed I-Net, said
Sims has "lost patience" because TCI has not even begun work on the rebuild, nor
has it offered an alternative means of delivering better service to its King County

"He [Sims] is tired of broken promises," Collins
said. "We're saying, 'We want the system that you promised us, and we want
you to live up to your obligations.'"

TCI officials said the MSO was ready to begin the upgrade
this past October. It's been on hold, however, because the county hasn't granted
a variance incorporating the new network architecture.

"We don't want to start building until they OK
it," said Steve Kipp, TCI's communications director. "It would be silly to
start building with a design that they might not approve."

Kipp said the changes that TCI has made to the
system's design will actually increase the county's flexibility in connecting
300 of its facilities to the I-net.

"We believe that we're making a very rich
franchise agreement even richer for them," Kipp said.

Kipp conceded that the need to push back the
rebuild-completion date was the result of the company's putting all system upgrades
on hold a few years ago.

Both sides said they were reviewing their legal options
last week.

The council is expected to take up the matter sometime next