Broadband provider OpenBand denied franchise renewal in Virginia

For the second time, a Loudoun County, Va., board of supervisors has denied a franchise agreement between the county and Dulles-based broadband telecommunications provider OpenBand. A previous board rejected an earlier version of the proposed agreement in November only to have it resubmitted to--and rejected by--the current board in a 5-3-1 vote this week.

"One of the things that we as a board have to look at is, is it in the best interest of our citizens?" said Supervisor Ralph Buona in a Washington Post story. Since OpenBand is embroiled in two lawsuits with county homeowners' associations, "I just can't reconcile that being in the interest of our constituents," he said.

The situation with OpenBand, which provides triple play services in several county communities including Lansdowne and Southern Walk, has gone litigious in the past year.

Homeowners' associations representing Southern Walk at Broadlands and Lansdowne on the Potomac filed federal complaints stating that "exclusive property easements established in contracts between OpenBand and the communities' developers had effectively resulted in a monopoly" and that competing cable service providers Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) were unable to access the neighborhoods.

The U.S. District Court dismissed the Southern Walk complaint with prejudice in February; Lansdowne got a July ruling that the terms of OpenBand's agreement were "in violation of the Federal Communication Commission's exclusivity order," the Post story said.

Both cases will be reviewed by the 4th Circuit Appeals Court in the coming months, the newspaper said.

Buona and Supervisor Shawn Williams have held meetings with OpenBand in the past to try to hash out a new agreement, but apparently things didn't work out since they both voted against a new deal, the Loudoun Times reported.

Supervisor Matt Letourneau, who voted to approve the franchise, said his decision was based on a belief that the county board should not interfere in a dispute between two private entities (the homeowners' associations and OpenBand), further adding he believed rejection would lead to more litigation.

OpenBand, which did not provide comment for either story, has been providing triple play services under a transition period outlined in a previous franchise agreement that expired in June 2009.

For more:
- the Washington Post has this story
- the Loudoun Times has this story

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