The city of Fort Worth, Texas, will decide this week
whether to fine Marcus Cable over complaints brought on by the MSO's rebuild of its
The city began considering a $5,000 penalty after 856
cable-related complaints were logged during the fourth quarter of last year -- a jump of
more than 500 percent over the 133 grievances received during the second quarter of 1997.
Moreover, through March 27, another 270 complaints had been
received, officials said.
Marcus executives, meanwhile, believe that the city is not
taking into account the fact that its service woes began after it launched a $116 million
rebuild of the Fort Worth system.
"We don't have the luxury of hanging out a sign
that says, 'Temporary inconvenience, permanent improvement,'" said MSO
president Jeff Marcus. "This is typical of what comes with a massive rebuild.
It's not like we're not trying to get it squared away."
However, Pat Svacina, assistant to city manager Bob
Terrell, said the complaints received went beyond outages brought on by the rebuild. The
public's gripes have included an inability to get through to the company's
switchboard after Marcus introduced a new billing system and cable rates that have
skyrocketed by as much as 30 percent in rebuilt areas, he said.
"The feeling here is that Marcus has to be accountable
for these things," Svacina said.
Under Marcus' franchise, the city can impose a $5,000
fine the second time that it discovers that Marcus has fallen below the minimum
customer-service standards set by the Federal Communications Commission. After logging 258
complaints in the third quarter, the city will likely consider the fourth quarter as the
second instance when the company has failed to meet the FCC guidelines, Svacina said.
Any subsequent violations could result in a $10,000 fine,
Meanwhile, in a four-page letter presented to the City
Council last week, Jeff Marcus asked that officials consider "the spirit of the law,
and not merely the letter."
"If you choose to fine us, it will be very
disappointing and discouraging to our company and to our employees, and also to any
business that is looking to invest in this community," Marcus wrote.
Svacina said the council rejected Marcus' appeal and
instructed its staff to prepare an agenda item involving a possible fine for this
"The council's concern is that Marcus'
service has not been what it should have been," he said.