Archive for Thursday, November 18, 2004

Cable provider draws criticism from City Council

November 18, 2004

— Time Warner Cable is getting its requested increase in its basic rate structure in Lansing, but not without first getting an earful during a Lansing City Council meeting.

The council on Thursday night approved a six-cents-a-month increase to $10.89 cents that Time Warner requested in its basic rates. Council members, who voted 7-1 in favor of the increase, were told the city had little recourse in the matter since the Federal Communications Commission already had accepted the increase.

Council member Bob Ulin, who cast the lone vote against the resolution accepting the rate increase, registered his disdain about Time Warner charging customers in Lansing "twice as much" as those in Lenexa.

Ulin said his son was a Lenexa resident and received more services from Time Warner for about half the price.

Time Warner representative Lori Hansen disputed the assertion that rates were double in Lansing, but said the lower rates in Lenexa were necessitated by the competitive nature of the market there.

The rationale didn't placate Ulin.

"I really have a problem when you are charging the citizens of Lansing a higher rate than you're charging in Lenexa," he told Hansen.

When Mayor Kenneth Bernard suggested Time Warner had a monopoly on the service and there was little the city to do, Hansen bristled.

"We are not a monopoly," she told council members. "We are the only cable provider in the community. There are alternatives," such as satellite television.

Council members also questioned Hansen about a $3 service fee for people who walk into the local cable office to pay their bills.

Hansen defended the charge, saying other options such as a drop box or the mail were available to customers. "If the Cable Store representatives are using their time handling walk-in payments, that's less time they are handling other service issues," she said.

Council members briefly discussed not acting on the resolution since the FCC already had accepted the fee increase. Such a move by the city, City Clerk Karen Logan said, would mean the city would have to justify its action to the FCC.

Logan said the city's charges in attorneys' fees for such a filing might not be worth the fight. If Time Warner were seeking a "substantial" increase, she said, the city's position might be different.

In the end, the council relented and approved the resolution, but not before Ulin spoke again.

"I wish we could find an alternative, and I hope we can find an alternative," he said.

The increase, which amounts to about one-half of 1 percent, goes into effect Jan. 1.

In other business Thursday, the council:

¢ Heard a report that participation in this year's Parks and Recreation cheerleading program increased by three children, to a total of 41 cheerleaders.

¢ Approved an ordinance that levies special assessments against property owners who are delinquent in sanitation and sewage charges.

¢ Approved the preliminary development plan for an extension of the Main Street Center as proposed by Development Inc.

¢ Approved an ordinance annexing land south of the city as approved by the Leavenworth County Commission.

¢ Met in executive session and then authorized the mayor to continue with land acquisition efforts for park land.

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