Tussle Continues in Lebanon, Ohio

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Time Warner Cable and home builders in Ohio will get another chance to fight a Lebanon, Ohio, law that requires new construction to be connected to the city’s telecommunications network.

On Aug. 30, the Ohio Court of Appeals for the 12th District struck down a lower-court ruling which held that Lebanon used its lawful police powers last year when it created policy regarding its telecommunications operation. The appeals panel remanded the dispute to Warren County Common Pleas Court in Warren County for a full trial.

The dispute began last March, when the city council passed a new law demanding that new residences and commercial structures be connected to the city-owned broadband plant, which provides video, high-speed Internet services, telephony and meter-reading capacity to the city’s approximately 17,000 citizens. Although new buildings must be connected, residents and businesses are not required to use any of the city’s services, according to the law. But developers must pay $1,250 per residence or $2,000 per commercial structure to connect to the city network.

Time Warner, which has a franchise dating to 1996, according to court documents, is not allowed to collect connection costs from users except in “extraordinary” circumstances, such as linking up a home in a low-density area.

The Home Builders Association of Dayton and the Miami Valley quickly challenged the law, and Time Warner Cable joined the suit as an intervenor.

The plaintiffs contended the city policy violates state law, including the 2000 Fair Competition in Cable Act. That legislation requires that city overbuilds be subjected to treatment equal to a commercial incumbent, among other terms.

City attorneys countered that the state law is unconstitutional because it violates Ohio’s home-rule provisions. Also, Lebanon was within its police powers to create the local telecommunications provisions, attorneys argued.

The trial court agreed with the police powers argument, and partially granted the city’s motion to dismiss the challenge.

Time Warner appealed that decision to the state panel. A dismissal was appropriate only if Time Warner and the builders’ group were shown to have no provable facts to lead to recovery, attorneys for the cable company argued.

The appeals panel concurred with Time Warner’s arguments.

<p>TV Via Lebanon</p><p>Here’s what Lebanon, Ohio, charges for cable TV service:</p>

Analog Basic:

$8.99

Analog Basic & Deluxe:

$29.98

Digital Basic:

$34.73

Digital Basic & Deluxe:

$43.38

HBO Multiplex:

$12.49

Cinemax Multiplex:

$11.49

Starz Multiplex:

$13.49

Fox Sports Digital:

$1.99

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