Cable firm agrees to settle

Adelphia to pay $169,000 in fees, complaint costs

End to a four-year dispute

Company, commission at odds over franchise

Carroll County

August 10, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

After four years of disputes over unpaid franchise fees and customer service complaints with Adelphia Communications Corp., Carroll County's cable commission has reached an agreement with the company on a settlement of nearly $170,000.

Adelphia agreed two weeks ago to cut two checks to the Carroll Cable Regulatory Commission. One will be for $137,831 - $122,500 for unpaid fees and audit expenses and $15,331 in accrued interest. The other check will total $31,200 for fines related to customer service complaints that range from lengthy waits on the telephone to missed appointments.

Previously Adelphia had agreed to a tentative settlement of $122,500 as a result of a commission-ordered audit that said the company owed more than $200,000 in outstanding fees to municipalities. Westminster Councilman Dr. Robert Wack, the city's representative to the commission, said letters were sent to Carroll County mayors last week declaring Adelphia's intent to make the payments, but he said there were still outstanding issues.

The amount of the settlement grew as the result of customer complaints.

"Unfortunately it doesn't mean much more than that Adelphia's attitude has improved a little bit and we've been able to find common ground on these issues of dispute," Wack said. "The major issues about [renegotiating] the franchise agreement remain unresolved."

Wack said that Adelphia did not provide a date for submitting the payments.

Adelphia spokeswoman Kristy Hall said the payments were awaiting final approval as the company goes through bankruptcy proceedings, but the company is encouraged by the talks with the cable commission.

`A positive direction'

"The overall sense between Adelphia and the cable commission there in Carroll County is that [the talks] continue to take steps in a positive direction," said Hall, director of government affairs for Adelphia's central region. "We're sitting down and talking about the issues. Coming to a settlement speaks clearly to that. We're encouraged. We're going to continue to talk and listen to their concerns and address them in a straightforward manner and move toward a resolution in Carroll County."

Cable commission administrator Carol Shawver said this is first time Adelphia has compensated the commission for unpaid fees in the four years since it entered into a franchise agreement to provide cable television service in the county, home to 20,000 customers.

Under the agreement, the county and nearly all of its municipalities receive 5 percent of the fees that subscribers pay for cable television. The county uses the money to pay for local-access television. Manchester is the only municipality that is not part of the franchise agreement.

Sanctions sought

In late 2001, county officials sought $30,000 in sanctions from a performance bond that is part of Adelphia's contract with the county for customer service concerns.

Adelphia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2002. Other disagreements have kept the commission and representatives from Adelphia corresponding or meeting on a regular basis.

The eight-member commission voted in March to pursue legal action, saying the cable provider did not adhere to its contract with the county in paying fees and resolving customer complaints.

The latest dispute involves disagreements over whether the commission can request an audit of the cable company and renegotiate its 10-year franchise agreement.

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