Ohio City Weighs Cablevisions Future


An administrative judge will resume hearing arguments June
29 in a franchise-renewal squabble pitting the city of Brunswick, Ohio, against
Cablevision Systems Corp.

At stake will be the MSO's right to do business in
Brunswick, a Cleveland suburb where it's accused of not living up to the franchise
that it inherited from Shamrock Cable in 1988.

After talks broke down earlier this year, the city voted to
deny Cablevision a renewal, which, under the 1984 Cable Act, triggers a hearing during
which local officials must show why their operator should be ousted.

Cablevision, which has 12,000 subscribers in the area,
believes that its plan to upgrade the system to 750 megahertz has been lost in the

During the first stages of the hearing, in April, the city
apparently concentrated its argument on the provisions in a 1984 federal act that allow it
to deny a franchise renewal if the operator has failed to live up to its existing deal.

Jeff Neidert, cable facilitator for the city, said one
noncompliance issue has been Cablevision decision's to close Brunswick's
PEG-access (public, educational and government) studio.

"Cablevision said, 'Nobody is interested in PEG
access,'" Neidert said, "but our ascertainment study determined that the
community does want that kind of programming."

Liz Losinski, Cablevision's corporate director of
regulatory affairs, argued that the Brunswick PEG-access studio was not being utilized,
and that the city still has access to a studio located "10 minutes away," in the
town of Brook Park.

The city also alleged that its franchise with Shamrock
Cable called for a "shadow" cable system, consisting of a second wire running
alongside the plant that is used to deliver cable service. The second wire was supposed to
be used to increase channel capacity in the future.

But Cablevision used the second line to replace damaged
sections of its plant, which prevented any channel expansion, Neidert said.

"Cablevision has refused to set a rebuild until it has
a new franchise," he added.

Losinski said Cablevision is hesitant to invest money in
the community "when we don't know if we'll be allowed to stay in

Cablevision was also accused of being out of compliance
because its system is not two-way-capable, as required under the franchise that it assumed
when it acquired the local network.

Losinski said that issue would be addressed if the company
proceeds with its upgrade.

"We were going to give them a whole new system, with
all of the channel capacity that they could want," she said.

A decision for the city could be just the beginning.

"If the ruling is in our favor, we'll issue a
formal denial, and we expect that Cablevision will sue us," Neidert said.

In the meantime, under its franchise, Cablevision would be
obligated to continue serving the community until Brunswick could find a new operator, he