Official Vows Stiff Fines Over Missed Cable Deadline

Times Staff Writer

The chairwoman of the Los Angeles City Council’s committee on cable TV vowed Friday to seek stiff fines against United Cable Television for missing Tuesday’s deadline for completing the long-delayed east San Fernando Valley cable TV system.

“We have to be tough,” said Chairwoman Joan Milke Flores. “Otherwise, nobody will take our deadlines seriously.”

United President William Cullen said the company did everything possible to meet the deadline and should not be penalized. He said the system will be finished by the end of June.

The city Department of Telecommunications said Friday that United is 158 miles from completing the 870-mile system.


Granted 4th Extension

United won the franchise in 1983 on the promise that it would complete the system by December, 1985. The City Council in June granted the company an unprecedented fourth extension until Tuesday to complete the system.

United faces $336,500 in fines for missing Tuesday’s deadline, plus $1,000 each day that it fails to complete the system, city officials said. An additional $198,500 in fines for United’s failure to meet previous deadlines are pending before the City Council.

United, already fined $271,000 in recent years for missing deadlines, contends that the delays have been beyond the company’s control.


Cullen said the company is trying to complete the system “as fast as we can,” including calling in extra crews from as far away as Denver. All of the cable has been strung on utility poles, he said, but the company is waiting for the city Department of Water and Power to install electric meters that provide power to the system.

But Kent Noyes, DWP engineer in charge of customer services, denied that the utility was holding up completion.

“We have five inspectors, and we haven’t been able to keep them all busy,” Noyes said. He said the department has responded to all of United’s requests for service.

‘Profit Motivation’

“Regardless of who is to blame, there is every effort being made by DWP,” said Susan Herman, general manager of the Department of Telecommunications. “In addition, United has a profit motivation to proceed such that customers should see service in the springtime.”

United is serving about 46,000 homes. Portions of North Hollywood, Studio City and Toluca Lake remain without service.

United officials have argued that they have a strong financial incentive to finish the $65-million system as soon as possible because they lose income from delays.

City officials have acknowledged that it would take even longer for the cable system to be completed if the city had to find another company to finish the job.