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Published: Saturday, 11/17/2001

Monroe, Bedford cable providers to swap franchises

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - Owners of the cable systems that serve homes in Monroe and Bedford Township have agreed to swap systems in a move that would end competition between the two companies in the township.

Comcast Cable, based in Philadelphia, owner of the former Bedford Cablevision system, has agreed to a swap with Buckeye Cablevision of Toledo, owner of Monroe Cablevision. Buckeye is owned by Block Communications, Inc., The Blade's parent company.

The transfer will likely take place after the first of the year as long as local franchise agreements held by both companies can be worked out, said David Huey, Buckeye's president and general manager.

“We're in the process now of getting notifications together to the franchise authorities to let them know what the agreement would call for,” Mr. Huey said, adding that a confidentiality agreement prevented him from disclosing what other considerations were offered.

The two firms have been in direct competition in the southern half of Bedford Township for several months after Buckeye began building a competing, state-of-the-art fiber-optic system there in 2000.

Comcast has more than 10,000 employees in its cable television division and more than 5 million customers, primarily along the East Coast, and acquired the assets of the former Bedford Cablevision system as part of a multi-asset swap with Adelphia in 2000.

But the cable giant showed little interest in upgrading its aging coaxial system in Bedford Township to compete with the new fiber-optic system Buckeye began installing there in 2000.

Monroe Cablevision has about 10,475 customers. Comcast's system in Bedford has about 7,000 customers.

While current Buckeye customers in Bedford Township probably won't notice a change, neither will those on Comcast's old system, at least for a while, Mr. Huey said.

“I would anticipate we're going to have to operate both systems for a while. Ultimately, we're going to want to be serving everybody with the type of system we have here in Toledo,” Mr. Huey said. “It's our plan that we would [rebuild] everybody that's a current [Comcast] customer.”

Bedford Township trustee Med Barr, who heads its cable committee, had been openly predicting a deal between the two cable providers for months, saying he thought that the competition he and others helped bring to cable customers in the township likely wouldn't last.

While he said the township has been relatively happy so far in its fledgling relationship with Buckeye, the township has “some unfinished business” it must take care of before it approved any change in the two firms' franchise agreements.

“We need to have some things resolved, like issues of `must-carry' stations. And we would like to see them remove all these little boxes that are all over the place that belonged to Comcast,” Mr. Barr said.

He added that he would expect Buckeye to live up to the terms of Comcast's agreement, which, among other things, calls for a $10,000 annual payment that is used to support the broadcast journalism program at Bedford High School.

In Monroe, local officials are wondering what the switch will mean for an obligation in the current Monroe Cablevision franchise agreement that required the company to begin installing a fiber-optic system in the city as early as next year.

Monroe Mayor C.D. “Al” Cappuccilli said he planned to sit down next week with city manager Robert Hamilton and representatives of Buckeye to discuss the current franchise agreement.



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