No High Court for Charter-Santa Cruz Dispute


The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it would not hear an appeal of a franchising dispute between the county of Santa Cruz, Calif., and Charter Communications Inc.

The court battle was closely watched because of its potential impact on the rights of cities to extract concessions and to demand broad financial data when approached by a new cable operator.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the nation's top court to take up the case.

The county tried to reject the transfer of the local Sonic Communications Inc. system to Charter in 1997. Officials expressed fear that Charter was spending too much to buy the system, and that it would raise rates.

Charter challenged the rejection, alleging that the city was asking for information to which it was not entitled and that it made unreasonable demands, such as a $500,000 one-time payment.

A lower court supported Charter, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the county acted within its rights to determine the financial resources of Paul Allen and his Vulcan Inc., Charter's parent company.

Observers knew the court might deny the hearing when late last year, U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olson weighed in, recommending that the Supreme Court justices wait to get involved until courts of appeal had "fleshed out more of the issues."

Bill Marticorena, outside counsel for Santa Cruz County, said he was pleased that the Supreme Court decided not to disturb the ruling the of California court.