Oklahoma cable operators will wait until next year to try
to regulate late fees and to prevent access-fee charges by multiple-dwelling-unit owners
in their state.
The Cable Telecommunications Operators of Oklahoma
Association was unsuccessful in promoting a bill that would have set late fees at $7.50
per month and unified trigger dates. Pending lawsuits on the issue in Oklahoma and
Comanche counties discouraged legislators from driving the legislation, said Jim Walker,
executive director of the cable group.
A group of cable subscribers -- represented by Phillip
Friedman, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who has successfully pursued several late-fee
lawsuits against cable operators -- filed a potential class-action suit (the suit must
still be certified as class-action by a judge) late last year against Tele-Communications
Inc. in Oklahoma City and Tulsa; Cox Communications Inc.'s Cable Oklahoma Inc.;
Multimedia Cablevision; and independent Lawton Cablevision. The suit alleged that late
fees as penalties violate state law, and that they are grossly excessive when compared
with such fees in the utilities industry.
The fees at issue range from $6 per month by Cox and
Multimedia down to $3.
Oklahoma operators also suffered a setback in their
attempts to prevent access-fee demands by apartment-house owners. This is the third year
during which the operators sought protection, only to be confronted by strong
property-rights forces. The operators could barely get a hearing for their bill, Walker
said, adding that the association will change its tactics.
With the launch of advanced products, such as telephony and
high-speed-data delivery, cable operators are creating "smart buildings" for
business applications. The demos will continue to focus on industry groups, such as the
banking and medical industries, but they will also add residential owners.
"We'll teach them that fiber-to-the-building can
help them to attract tenants," Walker said.