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Boston Agency Hits AT&T Broadband with Suit

Advertising agency Prime Communications Inc., has sued AT&T Broadband, accusing the operator of refusing to sell it commercial inventory.

Wakefield, Mass.-based Prime has asked the U.S. District Court here for an immediate injunction to force AT&T Broadband to accept its media-buy orders; the agency reportedly handles about 100 car dealerships in the market and produces car-sales publications.

The court will hear both Prime's request for injunctive relief and the system's motion to dismiss on Dec. 5.

Prime said in a $20 million lawsuit — filed last July — that AT&T Broadband had decided to forego making inventory available last spring. That was after the ad agency had decided against selling the cable operator the automotive Web site
for $1 million-plus, according to a story in the Boston Herald.

AT&T Broadband has said that the ad agency had projected that it would generate $1.4 million in car-dealership revenue from the site, but actually delivered just $200,000.

Prime maintained that AT&T Broadband, the state's dominant cable operator, has "a significant financial interest in steering its clients" toward, in which the MSO holds a stake.

AT&T Broadband issued a statement in mid-November, maintaining that "the claims alleged by Prime Communications in this case are entirely without merit. We intend to continue to defend the case vigorously. AT&T Broadband has neither violated federal antitrust laws nor has it engaged in any anti-competitive activities."

An AT&T Broadband spokeswoman said that the Boston Herald's
coverage was based on an interview with Prime president Neil Bocian, who recreated alleged conversations with system vice president James Sullivan.

Bocian could not be reached for comment by press time.