Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sun Valley, Cox still at odds over service

City debating whether to renew franchise agreement


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Dissatisfaction with the service from and technical quality of Cox Communications has led Sun Valley city leaders to question whether they should renew a franchise agreement with the company.

The agreement is up for renewal—or cancellation—in July. The city could grant an extension so that issues can be worked out.

Guy Cherp, Cox vice president of operations for the Wood River Valley, appeared before the council on June 16 to answer questions and offer explanations about previous concerns.

"We had a pretty heated discussion at our last meeting," said Mayor Wayne Willich.

Councilman Nils Ribi has taken issue with Cox's passing on the franchise fee to its customers, among other things.

"It is truly a direct tax on the taxpayer of the city of Sun Valley," he said. "The person who uses Cox service is actually paying the franchise fee for Cox to use our right-of-way. And that doesn't seem to jibe to a lot of people. It doesn't make sense to me."

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Ribi said that if the agreement is renewed, he'd like to consider a penalty clause or a performance clause "in order to get these things taken care of," as well as a financial audit. He left open the possibility of not renewing the agreement.

Cox does not have a franchise agreement with the county but does with Wood River Valley cities.

Cherp said there are some "unique challenges" to doing business in a mountain resort community, especially a remote one like Sun Valley.

Cox is working to address the city's and customers' concerns, Cherp said.

"I welcome any of those complaints and any concerns that you may have or that you hear from your constituents," he said.

In the past, Cox has been criticized for interruptions in service and poor signals for certain television channels. Earlier this year, Cox switched to an all-digital format for television service, with assurances it would improve quality. It is unclear whether another cable provider would offer cable services throughout the city if the Cox contract is not renewed.

A public hearing on the city's franchise agreement with Cox is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20, at 10 a.m. at City Hall.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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