Charter's city cable franchise in jeopardy

Charter Communications has been put on notice by the City Council

that its cable television franchise could be in jeopardy if

improvements aren't made to service and safety.

While the council wanted staff members to continue renewal

negotiations with Charter, they also wanted other options to be

considered.

"We are tied to your company but we have a lot of problems and

complaints," Mayor Jef Vander Borght said. "I would like to see us

find competition to your services. It's the only way we are going to

improve the quality of service."

The council's comments came during a discussion at last week's

meeting following presentations on customer satisfaction with Charter

and an analysis of the company's infrastructure.

Charter's franchise agreement with the city expires on Dec. 2. The

city receives about $1 million from the company to be allowed to

provide cable service in the city.

A city-commissioned analysis of Charter's equipment found cable

wires tangled with electric wires, loose wiring, improper grounding

of cable wires and hazardous installation locations that are

violations to the city's municipal code.

"It's not every house in the city but it's a sizable problem,"

said Jonathan Kramer, the consultant who did the analysis.

Charter Director of Government Affairs Susan Evans responded that

safety is a top priority of the company and that it had an action

plan to address those issues that would be completed by the fall of

2006.

That response did not sit well with Vice Mayor Todd Campbell, who

said safety issues took precedence over bad reception and he wanted

more specifics on how those issues would be taken care of.

"If I were making a decision solely on this council, I'd have you

come back and say what your plan is," Campbell said. "If the answer

is the third quarter of 2006, I want to look at other people to

provide [cable] service in my community."

Evans said there was a disagreement between the company and the

city over Kramer's findings and some conclusions reached in the

analysis were based on assumptions rather than observation.

Charter owns and operates 730 miles of cable in Burbank and

Glendale and serves a total 73,000 customers in the two cities, Evans

said.

"Given the size of the plant it simply is not possible to find it

in perfect condition at all times in all places," Evans said.

The city and Charter will continue its negotiations although the

city's stance will be to not delay any enforcement of code violations

indefinitely, Bill Marticorena, special counsel to the city on cable

matters, said.

A report will be brought back to the council within 30 days on the

status of the negotiations, Marticorena said.

QUESTION

What do you think of the service provided by Charter

Communications? E-mail your responses to o7burbankleader

@latimes.comf7; mail them to the Burbank Leader, 111 W. Wilson Ave.,

Glendale, CA 91203. Please spell your name and include your address

and phone number for verification purposes only.

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