Lake Norman-area towns and Mecklenburg County have reached an impasse in negotiations to set up a regional cable television governing body, making it highly unlikely the towns will join forces to buy the former Adephia cable TV system serving the region.
“It’s dead,” Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice said before Tuesday’s monthly town board meeting. The talks have stalled over the issue of voting power on the proposed cable board, he said.
That means Time Warner Cable, which has been operating the system temporarily since last year, is likely to take over the system permanently. It’s unclear when that might happen.
The towns of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mooresville and Troutman, along with Mecklenburg County, have been studying the feasibility of buying the cable TV system since last year. The system is up for grabs because of the bankruptcy of Adelphia. Under their contracts, the towns have the right of first refusal to buy it.
The talks on an “interlocal agreement” have stalled over the issue of how voting power would be shared on a regional cable board or commission. Mecklenburg County, which has agreed to provide financing for the proposed deal through its borrowing capacity, wants veto power over the board, at least until the debt is paid off, Mr. Brice said.
But Huntersville officials have rejected that idea, he said, effectively killing the whole deal. “They decided that they could not live with a veto (by the county),” Mr. Brice told the Davidson Town Board.
Time Warner and Comcast, two of the nation’s largest cable TV providers, bought most of Adelphia’s assets. Time Warner, which operates in Charlotte and other surrounding communities, is operating the system temporarily and it is eager to add the Lake Norman area system to its holdings. But it has had to stand by and wait while the towns weighed the purchase.
Two major hurdles have remained: A bankruptcy judge in New York must set a price for the local system. The county and towns then would know whether the deal was financially feasible.
At the same time, representatives of the county and towns have been meeting over the past couple of months to negotiate the terms under which they would own the system, including voting power on a regional cable commission, and how costs and revenues would be shared.
The voting issue has proved to be the sticking point.
With Huntersville out, Mr. Brice said Cornelius officials also appear likely to drop out. One possibility is that the remaining towns — Davidson, Mooresville and Troutman — could try to separately buy the subscribers and lines in their towns. But to do that, they would have to start over in a search for financing and develop a new business plan that incorporates changed economics of the deal.
Feb. 2, “Manager says cable deal is viable,” CLICK HERE>
Jan. 25, commentary by Bob Maier, “Cable deal makes sense,” including comments arguing against the deal. CLICK HERE>
Nov. 3, Our coverage of a public meeting on the cable deal in Davidson, with links to documents related to the proposal, CLICK HERE>