Modesto Wants Its Subs Unshocked


Modesto, Calif. officials fear that as many as 12,000 city cable homes face electrocution dangers because the cable plant isn't properly grounded.

Comcast Corp. has been notified that it defaulted on its contract due to its failure to cure electrical problems it inherited from its predecessor franchisees, Cable One Inc. and AT&T Broadband, city sources said.

The city will hold a hearing on the issue June 24, according to the city's special counsel, Harriet Steiner.

Still in talks

The city council has three options: It could decide to give the operator more time; provide an extension, but fine the company for failure to cure by the March deadline; or begin revocation proceedings.

Comcast spokeswoman Susan Gonzales said the company remains in active negotiations with the community over the operation of the 40,000-subscriber system.

Comcast is optimistic it can resolve the "legacy issue," she added.

The dispute over plant quality began more than three years ago, when the system was owned by Cable One but was about to be acquired by AT&T Broadband, according to Steiner.

The city inspected the plant, finding that it was "not code compliant at all," she said. The cable system is in violation of state utility standards that dictate how power supplies are strung, among other violations.

The city reached a settlement agreement with Cable One, which AT&T Broadband inherited. The operator agreed to fix the grounding problems by March of this year and to upgrade the plant by next month.

Steiner said AT&T Broadband assured the city during the last two years that it was fixing all the problems.

City: 70% grounded

When Comcast acquired AT&T Broadband late last year, the Philadelphia-based MSO inherited the terms of the agreement, which demands that a minimum of 90% of consumers' homes meet grounding requirements.

The city hired its own inspector, who finished his work in January. The inspector concluded that only 70% of the cable homes have proper grounding.

Comcast has asked for more time to fix the problems, but city officials have run out of patience.

"Governments adopt regulations on public safety and we expect them to be complied with," Steiner said.

While this issue has been pending, another problem has surfaced. Comcast was supposed to provide cable to all new subscribers utilizing flush mounted pedestals. Instead, above-ground ones were used. The company will have to rectify that, too, and the city has been assured the installations will be corrected by July 5.