During a closed-door session on Friday, the City Council quietly agreed to appeal the federal district court ruling dismissing its lawsuit against Time Warner cable. Later, the council approved the transfer of the city cable franchise from Time Warner to a subsidiary of Comcast. Neither decision serves Minneapolis taxpayers.
When Judge Anne Montgomery dismissed the city’s suit last month—which challenged Time Warner’s refusal to pay its full franchise fees and its unwillingness to make available 25 percent of channel capacity to public access—she ruled that the 1996 Telecommunications Act protected Time Warner in the former case and the statute of limitations rendered the latter argument moot. Just how the city plans to overcome those arguments escapes us. City attorney Jay Heffern said simply that he and his colleagues would be developing grounds for an appeal.
The council apparently had fewer options available in the franchise transfer, as advocates argued that to deny the transfer would leave the city with essentially no leverage with the new franchise holder. But, as Council Member Lisa Goodman noted, most of her colleagues had less than a week to study the rather complex matter before Friday’s vote.
That lack of notice—as well as the bungled negotiations between the city and Time Warner—have left the city with nothing but poor options. And taxpayers—who have been footing the bill for this comedy of errors—should be outraged at the performance of the mayor’s office and communications director Gail Plewacki in this fiasco.