The Urban County Council gave first reading Thursday to two resolutions denying the transfer of ownership of Time Warner Cable to Comcast, setting the stage for a possible fight with Lexington's cable company.
A final vote could come by Oct. 23.
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If the city denies the transfer of ownership, the cable company and city could end up in court. But both sides say that they hope that does not happen and that a deal between Time Warner and the city over the city cable franchise agreement can be reached.
Comcast announced in February its intention to acquire Time Warner Cable, which has been the provider of cable TV in Lexington since March 2012, when it completed the purchase of Insight Communications. The merger is being reviewed by two federal agencies. Locally, the city must approve the transfer of ownership as part of its franchise agreement. However, the city may deny the transfer if it deems it not in customers' best interests.
One resolution introduced Thursday would deny the transfer of Time Warner to Comcast. The second resolution would deny a transfer from of Time Warner customers from Comcast to Charter, the company that eventually would provide Lexington's cable service.
Mayor Jim Gray has said the city decided to take this path because of frustration with Time Warner over provisions in the franchise agreement related to customer service.
Vice Mayor Linda Gorton said Time Warner would not agree to include a provision that would allow the city to fine the cable company — in the current franchise agreement, it's about $100 a day — for poor customer service.
The city wants the franchise agreement to continue to ensure that the local cable office, now on Palumbo Drive, remain open during some evenings and on weekends to serve people who work on weekdays. Additionally, the current franchise agreement requires that Time Warner provide a studio for public access shows. If the cable company does not provide that studio, it could cost taxpayers a lot of money to build one, city officials said.
"We want to keep these terms in our current agreement," Gorton said. "For our citizens, we are working hard to get a good franchise agreement."
Time Warner officials said Wednesday that they, too, wanted to get a franchise agreement. Time Warner said that since it took over from Insight, it has worked hard to improve customer service and has made many investments in Kentucky. It has improved both Internet speed and capacity, they said. Customer surveys after service calls shows high customer satisfaction, the officials said.
Gorton amended the resolutions Thursday to include information from a September 2014 J.D. Power and Associates residential television service provider satisfaction study that shows Time Warner finished last, with Comcast second to last in the South.
Gorton was the only council member to speak about the resolutions Thursday.
Several mayors, including New York City's Bill de Blasio, have asked that the Federal Communications Commission require better customer service if it gives the green light to Time Warner-Comcast merger.