Qwest, Mediacom protest Iowa's underground cable ordinance

Qwest (NYSE: Q) and cable competitor Mediacom (Nasdaq: MCCC) have waged the latest underground wire relocation war in Cedar Falls, Iowa, a city  prone to major ice and wind storms.

Cedar Falls' passing of a new ordinance that mandates all utilities--telephone, cable and electric companies--comes after local electric utility Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) launched a $19 million effort this spring to move its aerial utility lines underground. What prompted CFU move its lines underground was a 2007 ice storm that caused major power outages and a windstorm last July that caused $6.9 million in damage to public infrastructure.   

Both service providers said they aren't happy about how much it will cost them to move their wires underground. "We're being mandated as to how to run our business rather than a more cooperative agreement," said Michael Sadler, a representative for Qwest.

However, Bob Dieter, an attorney for CFU, said in a Waterloo Courier article if all three utilities simultaneously moved their lines they could not only ensure greater network reliability and safety, but also "minimize disruptions to homeowners" and control costs. To date, CFU has put 40 percent of its lines underground, while the city requires all utility lines be put underground in any new housing developments.

This is not the only time Qwest or any telco has found itself in a pole position debate. Last September, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that Qwest had to pay to move utility poles so the city of Chandler, Ariz. could finish a construction project, while Verizon asked North Andover, Mass. leaders to foot half of their underground cable project.

For more:
- The Waterloo Courier has this story

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