Comcast sued by Pennsylvania installation contractors for alleged hardball tactics

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is being sued by sued in Scranton, Penn. by a pair of local installation contractors, who say the MSO enticed them to buy trucks and ramp up staff in 2010, only to reduce its reliance on outside contractors in the following years. 

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Kevin Diehl's Cable-Line Inc. and McLaughlin Communications Inc. claim in a federal lawsuit that Comcast urged them to make capital expenditures to pursue business with the cable company, but had already began embarking on a secret plan to "kill off" its reliance on regional cable installation firms. 

According to the lawsuit, Comcast reduced the number of outside installation firms it used from 176 in 2009 to just 39 by 2012.

Comcast spokesperson Jenni Moyer told the Inquirer, "The contracts are very clear about the parties' rights, and we were not required to do business with these companies." She told FierceCable she didn't want to expound on that statement, given the pending litigation. 

Other lawsuits filed by other installation contractors in other parts of the company do belie a significant change in Comcast's strategy back in 2009 in regard to outside installation vendors. 

In December, U.S. District Court Judge Troy L. Nunley rejected Comcast's bid to dismiss three conspiracy-related claims made against it by Clear Connection Corp. The Fresno, Calif.-based installer claims it had a preferred vendor contract with Comcast, but that the MSO squeezed it out, giving its Sacramento and Fresno business instead to another vendor, O.C. Communications.

According to Clear Connection, Comcast ordered a realignment of its installation vendors in 2009, restricting the company to serving Comcast only in the Fresno area. The contractor said it followed this mandate, only to have Comcast end its deal with the company and give its Fresno business instead to O.C. Communications, which also serves Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) and Time Warner Cable.

The strategic scenario described in the lawsuits belies a report in Slate in April that Comcast is eschewing use of in-house techs and relying more on low-paid installation contractors. 

For more:
- read this Philadelphia Inquirer story

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