DTG pulls plug on cable franchise

DTG pulls plug on cable franchise by David Lias It appears that the Vermillion City Council will have to go back to the drawing board and reconsider its recently approved cable television ordinance.

Dakota Telecommunication Group (DTG) which currently is busy installing cable television systems in Yankton and other area communities, has rejected Vermillion�s cable TV ordinance.

DTG�s vice president of legal issues, William P. Heaston, informed the city of its decision in a hand-delivered letter to City Attorney Martin Weeks.

The letter points out several reasons for DTG�s rejection of the ordinance. It also informs the city that it isn�t completely closing the door on future negotiations to hammer out an ordinance workable to both the city and DTG.

Weeks told the city council at its meeting Monday that DTG may not feel as compelled to pursue installing a cable television system in Vermillion after it was recently announced that Zylstra Communications, Vermillion�s current cable television provider, is in the process of being purchased by Mediacom, LLC.

The sale, worth an estimated $21.5 million in cash-for-stock, is expected to be completed in the next two to three months and is subject to regulatory and other customary approvals.

After the sale is complete, Mediacom will serve more than 725,000 cable and Internet customers in 20 states.

�The new acquisition is consistent with our strategy of acquiring cable systems serving principally non-metropolitan markets,� said Rocco B. Commisso, Mediacom founder, chairman and CEO in a prepared statement. �We expect to make significant investments in the broadband distribution network in order to accelerate the delivery of enhanced analog, digital video and high speed Internet access services to Zylstra�s customers.�

What isn�t clear to city officials is whether Mediacom is interested in continuing and or improving cable television service in Vermillion.

The cable television franchise currently held by Zylstra Communications in Vermillion is due to expire in October.

�I think I would like to see the city make an effort to visit with the current franchise holder to discuss the franchise recently approved by the city,� Councilman Roger Kozak said.

DTG claims that definition of cable services, signal input points, institutional networks, liquidated damages and covenants in the new cable television ordinance makes its acceptance a poor business decision.

Heaston also noted that he believed that with a little more effort, he believed DTG and the city can come to an agreement acceptable by both parties.

�I suspect at some point in time I�m going to sit here and have to ask you for a six month or one year extension on our current cable TV franchise,� Mayor William Radigan told the city council. �I think we�re in a situation where we have to take care of Vermillion the best we can, and we will do that.�

Radigan called for the city�s Utility Committee to meet once again and begin reviewing it cable television franchise with representatives from both DTG and Zylstra Communications.

�We need to ask them what they want,� he said.

The meeting is scheduled for June 15.

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