Ignoring an independent examiner's ruling, the city of
Brunswick, Ohio, last week rejected Cablevision Systems Corp.'s request for a
Not surprisingly, Cablevision officials immediately said
the MSO will file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to overturn the city's decision.
The City Council cited Cablevision's alleged failure
to live up to its existing deal, as well as a renewal proposal that did not meet the
community's future needs, as the reasons for lifting the franchise.
In another slap at the Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO, the city
gave Cablevision 30 days to submit a plan detailing how its local systems will be
transferred to a new operator or dismantled.
"They do not have the right to do that,"
Cablevision vice president Carol Caruso said. "We fully intend to exercise all of our
Brunswick's decision seemingly flew in the face of a
recent ruling by an independent examiner, who found that the city was making undue demands
and recommended the renewal of Cablevision's franchise.
Specifically, the examiner said the city was not
considering the cost of its demands, as required by federal law, or the public's
unwillingness to pay for the new services.
"And that was a city-appointed examiner," Caruso
However, Brunswick cable coordinator Jeff Neidert said the
city was not obligated to abide by the examiner's decision.
"His ruling is a recommendation," Neidert said.
"The council has the prerogative to reject it. This was the time to do this. Why
would we want to perpetuate a bad thing?"
Among the grievances held against Cablevision was its
decision to close its local PEG-access (public, educational and government) studio without
authorization from Brunswick officials, Neidert said.
"They closed the studio, but they didn't lower
bills to reflect the reduction in services," he added.
While it was open, the company also failed to maintain
proper staffing at the studio, and it had not provided a dedicated PEG channel, as
required by its franchise, Neidert said.
The city took issue with the part of the examiner's
ruling that dismissed those complaints because they were not immediately brought to the
"The 1992 Cable Act says there's no such thing as
'effective acquiescence,'" Neidert said. "Just because we didn't
act doesn't mean that we can't bring it up."
Caruso said the city scrapped Cablevision's renewal
because the company rejected demands that would have cost $5 million and added between $4
and $5 to 12,000 monthly bills in Brunswick and Brunswick Hills.
"We don't think that our customers want
that," she said. "In fact, we know that our customers don't want
The city's demands included a new PEG-production
studio, more equipment and an institutional network (I-net).
Cablevision's counterproposal included a $6.1 million
upgrade, 15 additional channels, an I-net and enhancements to three PEG-access channels.
Caruso said the city might be jockeying to acquire
Cablevision's system. She noted that Brunswick is part of an eight-city consortium
funding a study of municipal ownership of cable systems, and that Brunswick is actively
lobbying against legislation to level the playing field between private and publicly owned
In the meantime, Cablevision will keep its plans for an
upgrade of the Brunswick system on hold, she added. "That would be like putting an
addition on an house that you know is about to be foreclosed on," she said.