By Jason Reynolds, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.
Jul. 12–A Chattanooga judge on Friday threw out Comcast’s lawsuit seeking to block EPB from offering cable, telephone and Internet service to residential customers.
“We just received the judge’s decision, and our attorneys are reviewing it now,” Valerie Gillespie, vice president and general manager of Comcast’s Chattanooga office, said in a statement. “We are obviously disappointed in the outcome but will not have any further comment until after we have completed our review.”
Hamilton County Chancellor Frank Brown addressed three issues in his 26-page ruling: Comcast’s motion to shorten the discovery time; EPB’s motion for a protective order, or stay, until a motion to dismiss was considered; and EPB’s motion to dismiss or stay.
“We’re very excited that Judge Brown dismissed this lawsuit,” said Katie Espeseth, EPB’s vice president of its telecommunications division. “This is the third time the courts have thrown out the suits brought by the cable folks.”
Comcast argued that EPB is subsidizing the cable system with electric system revenue, which is prohibited by state law. EPB’s directors last month authorized a $26.4 million loan of electric system revenue to launch the cable system. EPB argues that it is complying with the law and will repay the loan with interest.
Last month, EPB cleared a similar legal hurdle in Nashville. On June 27, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle refused to reinstate the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association’s lawsuit against EPB. The association has until late July to appeal the case to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
“We were disappointed,” association President Stacey B. Briggs said at the time. “We were looking forward to having it decided on its merits. This was a procedural dismissal.”
Chancellor Lyle dismissed the association’s lawsuit on April 14.
Mrs. Briggs said recently that she didn’t expect her association would file a lawsuit in Chattanooga.
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