Local News

Future of Insight Franchise Agreement Uncertain as Time Warner Acquisition Looms

There are still a number of details to work out in Time Warner Cable’s pending acquisition of Insight Communications.

The sale was announced last week and a Time Warner spokesman says it’s too early to discuss possible changes to service. Many services can be regulated through franchise agreements, which cable operators sign with governments. Louisville’s agreement with Insight has lapsed, and the city has spent the last seven months negotiating a new deal.

“I am a little bit surprised that we’re at this stage of the deal and we don’t have a franchise agreement yet,” says Metro Councilman Kevin Kramer. “I am hopeful that we can get the franchise agreement taken care of so that when Time Warner actually purchases Insight, we’ll have a franchise agreement in place that at least protects the city.”

Time Warner won’t say whether it would seek to renew the current agreement or ink a new deal, but Kramer says the city should try to sign an agreement with Insight before the company is sold.

“Time Warner is a very large company with fairly vast resources,” he says. “Many of the folks who are engaged with the day to day work of Insight are local—they live here in Louisville. So I think there’s a different level of understanding of the services they provide and the agreement they would reach with the city.”

Kramer sits on the National League of Cities’ Information Technology Steering Committee. The panel advocates franchise agreements that ensure local channels are part of basic cable packages. The County Attorney’s office, which is leading the talks with Insight, says negotiations will likely continue, though that hasn’t yet been determined.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office says Time Warner will have to “assume the contractual obligations that Insight currently has with the city.”

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Rejects LG&E Agreement, Fee Increase

Questioning the fairness of the plan, the Louisville Metro Council’s budget committee delayed action on a new franchise agreement negotiated between Mayor Greg Fischer and the Louisville Gas & Electric Co., saying the administration must come up with a better deal.

The mayor’s plan would generate $5.4 million in new revenue for the city by raising rates on natural gas customers by three percent. Council members rejected the proposal because under state law Metro Government cannot force any rate increase on residents who live in the 81 smaller cities such as St. Matthews and Shively. That means about 20 percent of the city’s population would not be affected by the administration’s proposed fee increase

Councilman Kevin Kramer, R-11, says besides being unfair, the proposal is equivalent to a tax hike on residents because it has nothing to do with natural gas costs.

“It absolutely will say to folks who live in one portion of the community you’re going to bear a greater cost to the city of Louisville than people who live in another portion of the community,” he says. “They’re not bearing a greater cost because gas costs more there. They’re paying more because the city of Louisville wants to gather more money…because we want to raise more revenue.”

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Insight Contract Talks To Continue In Metro Council

The Louisville Metro Council ended 2010 with a piece of unfinished business still on the table. The body has yet to decide whether to renew the city’s contract—or franchise agreement—with Insight Communications for the next fifteen years.

When the contract first came up in committee, several council members complained about Insight’s service and cost. Despite that, the renewal passed the committee unanimously.

It was later sent back to that committee when it was revealed the company was late in paying a 2009 tax bill. Councilwoman Madonna Flood says Insight may not be open enough with the city, and the contract should be revised to hold them to stricter transparency rules.

“If they do not perform up to submitting financial records, audits, paying their taxes in time, there has to be some kind of measure that Louisville Metro has to come back at that company, whether it’s to renegotiate the whole franchise agreement or make it null and void,” she says.

“Certainly we’ll continue to work with them and we’re open to any ideas that they may have because we’re committed to Louisville,” says Insight spokesperson Jason Keller.

Keller says the tax bill was received late and that delayed the payment.