City’s cable picture could get clearer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Residents can have their say this week on the city’s recommendation to move ahead with the revocation of Charter Communications’ franchise agreement.

During its meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, the City Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday to give cable users the opportunity to register opinions on the proposal to rescind the St. Louis-based cable provider’s local operating franchise.

Assistant City Manager Cindy Rohlf has said that Charter did not live up to terms and deadlines set forth in the settlement agreement signed in July 2000.


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That contract calls for the cable provider to complete a $10 million rebuild of the cable system with fiber-optic wiring by June 30, which will allow residents in most parts of the city to access digital cable. The contract has allowed the company to complete the rebuild in a seven-step plan, with periodic checks conducted by the city’s Washington, D.C.-based cable consultants.

Efforts to reach a local Charter representative Monday were unsuccessful. But a glossy advertisement recently inserted in local newspapers proclaimed that Charter has completed the rebuild, almost a month ahead of its deadline.

In an April 4 letter to Charter, Rohlf indicated that the cable company has been cited and fined on several occasions for not complying with customer service guidelines and filing progress reports on the rebuild that contained false or misleading information.

Thus far, Charter has been fined $340,000, Rohlf said. In her letter, Rohlf indicated the company has only paid $15,000 of its penalties.

Also, Rohlf said, the city still regularly receives complaints about cable service. Criticisms most often heard include lengthy hold times with customer service, inaccurate billing and problems accessing channels or getting clear pictures.