Acrimony dissolves: City and Adelphia reach agreement

by George Wiley

Gone were the shouts of 'fraud.' Gone were the City of Redondo Beach threats to terminate the television cable franchise of Adelphia Communications. Calm reigned over cableland Tuesday as the city council formally approved an agreement with Adelphia to take over the Century Communications franchise Adelphia had unofficially taken over in October.

In response to Adelphia's premature takeover, the city threatened to revoke their franchise.

That mid-January threat did bring Adelphia to the bargaining table quickly, and over the next few weeks an agreement was worked out. A number of concessions were wrung from the cable giant in exchange for the Redondo franchise; among them:

* Settlement costs with the city will not be passed on by Adelphia to cable subscribers in the way of increased rates. The agreement calls for some subscribers to receive a few pennies off upcoming bills to pay back past overcharges for specific services such as the rate for receiving a specified channel.

* Adelphia will schedule customer service calls within a two-hour window. Adelphia has also agreed to respond within two hours, to any outage complaint at any time, any day of the week.

* Adelphia will supply the city with several upgrades in service, including upgrading equipment for the city's cable channel, Channel 8. Adelphia will also install and maintain for the city a system (I-NET) that allows city subagencies and departments, such as the fire and police departments, to communicate with each other. Ten sites will be linked initially in this system, with three more to be added at a later date.

* Adelphia will continue to offer a discount to low-income subscribers, to wire schools and classrooms for free and to maintain equipment for a school channel, Channel 45.

* Adelphia will install and maintain equipment to allow programming to originate from the Beach Cities Health District.

* Adelphia will reimburse the city for its out-of-pocket costs to settle the new franchise agreement, but only to a limit of $70,000. This will pay outside attorney fees but will not compensate city staff time.

* Adelphia will pay the city $10,000 annually to review franchise compliance, instead of the $5,000 paid previously.

For its part, the city will let Adelphia assume the franchise previously owned by Century. That franchise will continue in force through its original term of mid-March 2004.

Adelphia currently serves about 18,500 customers in Redondo. For the franchise rights, according to Redondo City Manager Lou Garcia, the city receives roughly 5 percent of Adelphia's gross receipts. That adds up to about $200,000 annually, Garcia said.

"Hopefully, this will be a new day with cable," Garcia said after the terms of the agreement were announced.ER