Broadband Providers Accused Of Cutting Competing Cable Lines, Bilking Consumers

Cable and broadband provider Comcast is facing a new lawsuit accusing it of putting the small Texas-based provider Telecom Cable out of business by "cutting its lines and running off its customers."

In the complaint, which was uncovered by Courthouse News, Telecom Cable says that it rejected a buyout offer from Comcast in 2013. "Little did Telecom know that Comcast would adopt another method of taking control of its business," Telecom alleges in court documents filed in Harris County, Texas.

The small company -- which provided service to 229 customers -- alleged that starting in June of 2015, Comcast (and various contractors) "began destroying Telecom's infrastructure ... under the guise of placing its cables and/or other equipment in utility easements owned by Telecom's customers."

"One would like to believe that the destruction was accidental, but the comprehensiveness of it -- coupled with Comcast's prior interest in Telecom -- renders such a conclusion doubtful," the company alleges.

A Comcast spokesperson stated that the company disagrees with Telecom's claim and plans to "vigorously defend" itself. 

Comcast isn't the only broadband provider facing accusations that it engaged in questionable behavior. On Sunday, CenturyLink was hit with a class-action complaint alleging that it bilked consumers. The suit came several days after a former company employee accused CenturyLink of charging customers for services they never ordered.

One of the customers named in the lawsuit, Alabama resident Craig McLeod, alleged that he was told he could upgrade his Web service from 10 Mbps to 25 Mbps for less than $2 per month, but was actually charged "far more than the additional $2 per month he was quoted," and was also assessed an unexpected $35 "wiring" fee.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, estimates that consumers suffered total damages ranging from $600 million to $12 billion.

A CenturyLink spokesman characterized the lawsuit as an "opportunistic follow-on" claim to the former employee's allegations; the company added that the ex-employee's contentions "are completely inconsistent with" its policies.

"We take these allegations seriously and are diligently investigating this matter," the spokesman said.

Separately, New York regulators this week reached a $13 million settlement with Charter for allegedly failing to build out its network -- a condition of its merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Specifically, the company was supposed to expand its network to reach 145,000 new customers within four years, including 36,250 new customers in the first year after the deal. Instead, the company only expanded its network to reach 15,164 new customers, according to Stop the Cap.

A Charter spokesperson says delays in pole-attachment approvals are partly to blame for the company's failure to extend its network by the targeted figure in the first year.

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