Lexington council delays vote that would halt cable company merger


Lexington's Urban County Council delayed a final vote Thursday on two resolutions that would halt the merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast in Lexington.

The council voted for the delay after being told that negotiations between the city and the cable company over the city's long-term franchise agreement were progressing.

The council has until Nov. 14 to approve or deny the transfer from Time Warner to Comcast and from Comcast to Charter, the company that eventually will provide Lexington's cable service. The council's next meeting is Nov. 13.

During Thursday's meeting, Vice Mayor Linda Gorton made the motion to delay the final readings, saying the city was making progress in negotiations with Time Warner, Comcast and Charter.

"Since that first meeting, the negotiating team has been called back to the table again," she said. "We have made some progress and have future meetings scheduled."

Additional details of the negotiations were not released.

The council took the unusual step of putting the resolutions on its agenda to deny the transfer of ownership because of frustrations with Time Warner over negotiations of the franchise agreement. The city has been negotiating with Time Warner since 2012.

The differences relate mostly to provisions about customer service. One provision in the current franchise agreement that the city wants to keep allows it to fine the cable company about $100 a day for poor customer service. Another provision being discussed provides assurance that the local cable office, now on Palumbo Drive, would remain open some evenings and on weekends to serve people who work during weekdays.

Additionally, the current franchise agreement requires that Time Warner provide a studio for public access shows. If the cable company does not provide the studio, it could cost the city a lot to build a studio, city officials have said.

City officials have been bombarded by complaints about Time Warner's customer service.

Time Warner has maintained that its customer service has improved in Lexington. They have made investments to improve Internet speed and capacity, and internal customer surveys show high satisfaction, company officials have said.

Comcast announced in February its intention to acquire Time Warner Cable, 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 that it is not in customers' best interests.

If the city denies the transfer, the cable company and city could end up in court. Both sides say they wanted to avoid a lengthy court battle and hoped an agreement could be reached.