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Council Tables 15-Year Insight Agreement Renewal

The agreement that regulates how Insight Cable operates in Louisville will get another review by the Metro Council.

A council committee unanimously approved Insight’s franchise agreement last week. The full council, however, sent the agreement back to the committee Thursday due to some questions about the company’s operations.

Specifically, the council will look at why Insight waited until this month to pay more than five million dollars for taxes owed in 2009. Insight contends that the bill was late, but majority caucus spokesperson Tony Hyatt says more review may be necessary.

“There have been some members of the caucus who have been concerned that there is not enough monitoring of Insight in the light of what we’ve been finding out there in the last week or so,” he says.

Also at question is whether Insight has been open enough with the city. Hyatt says council members will review how well the cable provider has followed recommendations from a previous audit.

“This is going to be more of a situation where the committee looks at what it would like to see as far as any type of annual report or update coming from Insight, because the auditors in 2006 had recommended Insight needed to do an annual report on various areas of its operations.”

While the council may require Insight to report more frequently to the city, it’s not clear whether the body will impose more regulation on rates or services. Hyatt says cities often don’t strongly regulate cable providers.

“As the cable industry and communications in general have been deregulated over the years, the Public Service commission handles an awful lot now, the federal government with the FCC handles a lot now,” he says.

The committee that will review the document will likely meet once more this year.

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Local News Politics

Committee Approves Insight Agreement Extension

A Louisville Metro Council committee Wednesday unanimously approved the extension of the city’s contract with Insight Cable.

Technically called a franchise agreement, the contract regulates Insight’s operations in ways not already controlled by the state or federal government. For instance, the document cannot control how much Insight charges customers or how much it must pay to use existing utility poles, but it can control who pays to put cables on those poles.

Insight attorney Larry Zielke says the franchise agreement mandates that the costs to extend cable to less populous areas must be shared by Insight and homeowners, though the city often helps residents pay such costs.

“There may be a group of a subdivision that comes to their Metro Council member and says ‘We want to get Insight into our neighborhood because they provide such good service.’ The Metro Council member has discretionary funds to have that happen,” he says.

In the past, council members have provided money to help extend lines in their districts. Zielke says if that happens, the city usually retains control of the infrastructure.

“If it’s a private easement, the private easement might specify that it only has one use—let’s say for multi-channel video programming,” he says. “If it’s a public easement, if the city buys an easement for example, then any utility can use it.”

Just four members of the public addressed the committee on Insight’s agreement and three of the speakers work for the cable provider. But the council members provided harsher comments as they questioned the company’s rates and programming options. When asked afterward if the agreement gives Insight a monopoly over cable in the city, Zielke said no; other cable providers may operate under separate franchise agreements. That may not be likely, though, since companies must pay to put their cable lines on existing utility poles.

“There are pole attachment agreements that we have with the utilities, and indeed the Kentucky Public Service Commission regulates how much pole attachment charge either LG&E or AT&T can charge us,” he says.

The agreement also requires Insight to include Metro TV on the basic cable package. The agreement will go before the full council next week for a final vote. The agreement lasts for 15 years.

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Local News Politics

Council Seeks Comments On Insight Cable Agreement

The franchise agreement that defines how Insight Cable must operate in Louisville is up for renewal. On Wednesday, the Metro Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee will hold a public hearing on the agreement. The document regulates everything from content options to how Insight lays cable.

Majority Caucus spokesperson Tony Hyatt says that means the conversation can cover a broad set of topics at Wednesday’s meeting

“It’s entirely whatever the public would like to say: if they would like to talk about their concerns, or if they would like to talk about Insight service, or if they would like to talk about what they would like to see,” he says.

Hyatt says the committee members have reviewed the agreement and will likely pass it with no major changes. However, public imput could spur amendments.