U.S. Cable, the leading cable and Internet provider in Hannibal, was recently sold to telecommunications giant Charter Communications. But James Lemon, Hannibal’s city attorney, has raised questions about whether Charter is fulfilling all of its legal obligations in Hannibal.
Lemon said the city franchise for U.S. Cable has not yet been transferred to Charter, nor has Charter taken any action to make this happen. In other words, Charter’s purchase of the cable company has not been approved by the city. That could affect Charter’s ability to operate in Hannibal, where it presumably will have a substantial customer base.
“They certainly never applied to the city to take over the franchise, so technically they don’t have a franchise to provide cable here,” Lemon said at Wednesday’s Hannibal Board of Public Works meeting. The utility has a stake in the sale because of a pole-sharing agreement with U.S. Cable.
Lemon said he plans to raise the issue with the City Council, but he stopped short of saying they would move to bar Charter from the city.
“It’s not something where I necessarily think we need to get crossways with them, but I just think they need to dot their I’s and cross their T’s,” Lemon said. “I really think it’s more a matter of shuffling paperwork.”
City Manager Jeff LaGarce, who was attending the BPW board meeting to discuss the utility’s water main work in the Main Street revitalization project, said the city did receive notice of U.S. Cable’s pending sale. He suggested that perhaps Charter had applied for a state franchise, particularly since it has a significant presence elsewhere in the state, including St. Louis.
But Lemon said U.S. Cable has a more than 40-year-old agreement with the city to abide by city laws, including one that requires the company to maintain a city franchise. Charter presumably will take over that agreement, Lemon said.
On the bright side, Lemon said Charter does intend to maintain the pole-sharing agreement with the BPW.