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Comcast Sued By Massachusetts City Over Fees

The city of Springfield, Mass., has sued Comcast, alleging the cable operator breached the terms of its franchise in passing on certain costs on to subscribers.

The city filed the lawsuit March 31 in Massachusetts Superior Court in the County of Hampden, accusing Comcast of breach of contract, deceit and fraud. The company's 10-year franchise agreement with Springfield is set to expire Jan. 28.

Comcast has not yet formally responded to the lawsuit and is currently reviewing it, said Kristen Roberts, senior director of community and public relations for Comcast's Western New England region.

"We believe we are in full compliance with our franchise agreement, and look forward to sitting down with the city to resolve this matter," Roberts said in a statement. "We value our relationship with the city and are committed to delivering the most advanced products and services in our industry to our customers in Springfield."

The operator serves about 39,000 customers in Springfield.

The city alleged Comcast improperly added certain fees to subscribers' bills, including charges related to equipment for a public-access TV studio and the cost of an economic development fund, according to Springfield's local newspaper, The Republican. In addition, the city's lawsuit claims, Comcast failed to provide the $300,000 annual operating budget for the studio as required by the franchise agreement.

"We are seeking justice for the city of Springfield and its cable television subscribers," city lawyer Harry Carroll said, according to The Republican. "The city believes that Comcast seriously failed to comply with a number of contractual provisions in passing through these rate increases to Springfield subscribers after they agreed contractually not to do so."

Separately, the city of Springfield has appealed the November 2008 ruling by Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable approving Comcast's rate hikes as well the additional fees that the city is suing over. That matter is currently pending before a single justice of the state Supreme Judicial Court, The Republican reported.