City to settle with Mediacom

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | 12:25 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The city of Columbia will settle its lawsuit against Mediacom for $200,000.

The City Council voted unanimously at its meeting on Monday night to authorize City Manager Bill Watkins to settle the suit on the city’s behalf. The cable access provider will pay the city $200,000, and the city will drop claims to collect Mediacom’s outstanding franchise and video service provider fees.

The city sued the cable access provider’s subsidiary, MCC Missouri LLC, in August 2007 for underpaid franchise fees and for its non-performance in the public access television franchise. The city originally asked for $1.34 million.

The council also voted in favor of directing staff to negotiate a contract with Stephens College that would give $125,000 of the settlement to the school to rebuild its broadcasting studio. Columbia Access Television has broadcast out of the college’s studio since it went on the air in 2004.

The rest of the money will go to paying off outside legal counsel and to the city’s general fund.

Before filing the original suit, the city had hoped to rectify its problems with Mediacom through renegotiation of the corporation’s cable television franchise contract. But after Gov. Matt Blunt signed the 2007 Video Service Providers Act into law in March of that year, Mediacom ceased negotiations and the city sued to recover the funds.

The act, which went into effect Aug. 28, 2007, made it no longer necessary for cable providers to negotiate franchise fees with local governments within the municipalities they operate. Now companies pay video service provider fees to the state, and the state writes local governments checks. Local governments can collect up to five percent of gross receipts of the video service providers operating in their areas.

City Manager Bill Watkins said that the city’s other cable provider, Charter Cable Co., also owes the city money and they anticipate “a much smaller settlement from them in the future."

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