Cable court date pushed to October Newport Commons residents days away from service switch

By on August 31, 2011

By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

As their Sept. 6 deadline approaches, Newport Commons residents do have choices:

1. Make the switch from Blue Ridge to Windstream in order to continue receiving cable and Internet service (and as a result lose Phillies coverage and local programming, for now).

2. Prepare for life without television and websites.

"It didn’t go well," said Jim Pack, a resident of the apartment complex, referring to a private meeting management held for residents Aug. 25. "The Windstream thing is a done deal. As of the 6th, it’s them or nothing. It lasted around 1 1/2 hours. Most of the time it was Glass facing an angry mob. He started with a script that got interrupted immediately with shouts of ‘Why? Why? Why?’"

Glass is Michael Glass, owner of Newport Commons, who contests that residents will have a choice if Blue Ridge goes through the proper channels of setting up an engineer-approved wiring system.

"Blue Ridge has the capability to do this, but they have chosen to take a legal route as opposed to a more practical route," he said, "and they’re wasting time. Clearly there are people at Newport Commons who would prefer to have Blue Ridge service, but they (Blue Ridge) aren’t doing what they need to do to provide service."

Referring to last week’s town hall meeting between management and residents, Glass said it didn’t start off very well.

"People attacked me before I even opened my mouth," he said. "Once that calmed down and we walked them through what I was willing to do for them and what Windstream was willing to do… all but four or five people left reasonably satisfied. There was one lady who was really upset because she wouldn’t be watching the Phillies games every night. I offered to send her to a game. We’re trying. If Blue Ridge got their act together, they could have these buildings wired in 60 days."

That, according to Joe Lorah in the Blue Ridge marketing department, is simply not true.

"Keep in mind, we didn’t even know we were going to be kicked out (of Newport Commons) until a resident told us," he said. "We’re fighting for our customers."

The fight was supposed to continue in a Lancaster County courtroom on Monday, but a judge postponed the hearing until late October, well after the deadline in which customers will lose their Blue Ridge service. As a result, Blue Ridge has filed for a stay to keep current service intact, at least until a hearing is held. They are still awaiting word as to whether or not the stay will be granted, but Lorah said that decision is expected well before the Sept. 6 deadline.

There also seems to be some confusion as to why the hearing was even postponed. Lorah said the court told Blue Ridge that a continuance was granted because Glass was going on vacation. Glass said this isn’t true.

"The court agreed with our position and postponed the injunction hearing until late October," he said. "They didn’t give us their reasoning, but we did not believe that court was the proper forum for the hearing."

"This means that on Sept. 6, Blue Ridge will no longer be an option at Newport Commons," Glass continued. "Blue Ridge has been asked for a plan of how they would connect residents and they have yet to deliver that plan. So, we can’t do anything. It’s our duty to make sure that any construction that Blue Ridge would do, especially in a building, is consistent with any applicable codes."

Lorah said those plans were intended to be part of the court process.

"We already have plans," he said. "We could start wiring it tomorrow. He doesn’t have to shut us off. He’s the one imposing this deadline, and he sold the interior line to Windstream.

"Obviously, we don’t want to lose customers. We make our money off customers. Why would we want to delay? The last thing we want to do is cut our customers off."

Glass confirmed that the property does profit from the deal to switch service from Blue Ridge to Windstream throughout the complex.

"It’s not a huge profit, but we receive certain royalties," he said. "This was a business decision we made. We’re giving the residents of Newport, at Newport’s expense, two months of free cable service," he explained, "and then they can go back … if Blue Ridge gets a plan in place. It doesn’t cost them (the residents) a penny."

"From the moment we got sued by Blue Ridge," Glass continued, "I’ve said, ‘Give me a permanent solution.’ I don’t think I will ever accept a temporary solution. If they had, at that time, gotten to work on a permanent solution, they might not have made the cutoff date, but they would have been darn close. And the residents would have had free cable in the interim."

Glass said that in hindsight Newport Commons should have talked to its residents sooner, but he still believes a positive outcome can be reached. More CABLE COURT, page A16

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