United Cable in violation 550 in S. Baltimore still lack service

November 01, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

In an effort to prod action, Baltimore officials have notified the city's cable company that it is in violation of its franchise agreement for failing to wire 550 homes in South Baltimore.

The notification, delivered last week to officials of United Artists Cable of Baltimore, follows two years of futile efforts to get the company to wire a 14-square-block area just south of Federal Hill, according to a city cable official.

"We've exhausted every effort we can think of to get it done. This seems to be our only option at this point," Joyce Jefferson Daniels, director of the Mayor's Office of Cable and Communication, said last night.

But the head of United said last night that the company had encountered unexpected delays in getting the necessary permits from public utilities to string its cables on utility poles in the area and promised that the wiring would be done soon.

"We're going to do it. We've already started the process," said Euan Fannell, president of United.

Mr. Fannell, who said he had not seen the violation notification because he was out sick when it was delivered, said the problem needed to be put "into context."

"Our service is accessible to about 300,000 homes," said Mr. Fannell, whose company has about 100,000 subscribers in the city.

Under United's franchise agreement with the city, the entire city should have been wired by 1989, Ms. Daniels said.

According to the agreement, once the company is notified that it is in violation, it has 45 days to correct the problem or submit a plan to do so, Ms. Daniels said. If the company fails to act, it can be declared in default and subject to damages of $500 a day, she said.

Ms. Daniels said the city could take legal action to strip United of its franchise to operate a cable system in the city if the company failed to abide by the agreement.

"I'm sure they'd never let it come to that," she said.

"The major thing we're interested in is getting the project done," she said.

She said the area lacking cable service is bounded by Fort Street on the south, Henrietta Street on the north, Light Street on the east and South Charles Street on the west.

United officials met with residents early this year and promised them they would be wired for cable in time for the start of the 1993 baseball season, Ms. Daniels said.

"We hope this action gets their attention," she said.

Ms. Daniels said cable is also not available to about 120 homes in Roland Park -- but that situation is not United's fault. The company has been unable to get the necessary easements from some homeowners, which relieves United of responsibility, she said.

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