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Modesto Fines Op, Extends Franchise

Cable One and Modesto, Calif., have extended the deadline for the city to act on the MSO's request for a franchise transfer.

The city also extended Cable One's franchise until next month to give both parties time to negotiate a renewal that would allow the company to swap 108,000 of its customers in the San Joaquin Valley for 107,000 AT & T Broadband customers in three states.

The city and MSO needed to extend the transfer-approval deadline or the deal would have been deemed accepted by Modesto under federal law.

Modesto also assessed $61,000 in fines against Cable One for service problems that include hundreds of electrical violations, poor picture quality and $60,000 in back franchise fees. City manager Jack Crist was authorized to tap the service bond posted by Cable One under terms of its franchise.

"We're really tired of the noncompliance," Modesto spokeswoman Donna Hansen said. "And we're tired of having to do something like this in order to bring Cable One to the table."

The fines could have been higher, said Hansen, who noted that the MSO's franchise allows the city to assess penalties of $5,000, plus $100 per day, per violation.

"The fines easily could have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the council expects these fines to be paid," she said.

The city acted after staff members presented a report that indicated Cable One failed to adequately perform the remedial or repair work it promised in a letter to the city last November.

A Nov. 7 letter from Cable One indicated the MSO was "inspecting every power supply in Modesto to ensure code compliance," and added that any remedial or repair work would completed by Nov. 30. A Dec. 5 letter asserted that all compliance issues had been addressed.

Jonathan Kramer, head of Kramer Firm, a California-based municipal technical consulting firm, said his subsequent inspection found otherwise.

Kramer said he conducted a random sample inspection of 31 of the 225 power supplies listed by Cable One. Twenty of the supplies passed inspection, but 10 failed to meet state electrical-code requirements-a failure rate of 35.5 percent.

Cable One vice president Mitch Bland called the problem "an error in communication" between the company and the city.

"We've been working with the city, and I think they would agree that we've been working pretty hard," he said. "And we're encouraged that we're finally making progress."