Mediacom adds Cedar Rapids-based ImOn in Iowa City muni broadband battle

In a case being watched by installation companies involved -- or thinking about being involved -- with municipal broadband projects, Mediacom has added Cedar Rapids-based ImOn Communications to its ongoing court battle with Iowa City. 

In a suit filed earlier, Mediacom alleged that Iowa City was commissioning work on a municipal broadband network with a vendor that does not have a franchise agreement with the city. Now, the MSO is suing that vendor, as well.

"After going through some initial documents received from Iowa City via an Iowa Open Records Law request, we felt compelled to add ImOn to our lawsuit against Iowa City," said Mediacom spokesman Thomas Larsen, in an email to FierceInstaller

"Based on just the limited number of documents we have received so far, it appears city staff was closely coordinating ImOn's entry into the Iowa City market," he added. 

The emails, excerpts of which which were provided to FierceInstaller, reveal collaboration between Iowa City officials and ImOn executives -- interaction which Mediacom says undermines its franchise agreement with the city. 

"ImOn is very excited to be entering the Iowa City market with our broadband, phone and cableTV services. Preliminarily we are targeting to bring up service late this year or early first quarter of 2016," reads on email which Mediacom provided FierceInstaller, revealing alleged planning between the telecom company and the city to pursue projects without a franchise agreement in place.

Mediacom is asking the court to injoin ImOn's work on the city's network until it secures a franchise agreement. 

In December, Mediacom filed suit against the city, alleging that Iowa City's franchise agreement with the MSO was undermined the the city's deal with ImOn. At the time, Mediacom reps said their beef was with the city, and not the local operator. 

"We want to resolve the issues that we have, which are not issues with ImOn," Phyllis Peters, Mediacom's communications director, told local paper the Press-Citizen.

But in an amendment filed late last month, Mediacom added a civil conspiracy claim against the city and ImOn, claiming that "newly discovered facts" show that "Iowa City and ImOn conspired to allow ImOn to build out its cable infrastructure in violation of franchise laws," and that ImOn wrongfully "interfered with Mediacom's franchise agreement with the city."

Iowa City's deal with ImOn allow the company to lease excess capacity on the city's fiber-optic network, and to lease 120 square feet of space in a local parking structure for about $2,000 per year to establish a communication hub.

Mediacom has asked the city to either void its deal with ImOn until the company obtains a franchise agreement, per city ordinance. Alternatively, Mediacom has also asked the city to release it from requirements stipulated by the current local franchise agreement.

For more:
- read this Iowa City Press-Citizen story

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