A franchise agreement between Loudoun County and cable telecommunications provider OpenBand that has drawn protest was denied by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Wednesday.
The long-anticipated vote followed years of complaints about the company’s service from residents of several eastern Loudoun communities served by OpenBand. Those complaints escalated this year as county leaders examined the possibility of renewing the agreement with the Dulles-based company, a prospect complicated by a tense negotiation process and two federal lawsuits filed against OpenBand by homeowners’ associations in Ashburn.
The lawsuits alleged that exclusive property easements established in contracts between OpenBand and the communities’ developers essentially created a monopoly, making it impossible for competing cable companies to provide service in the neighborhoods.
The 8-1 vote was preceded by a closed session between county officials and County Attorney John Roberts. Several members of the board had expressed concern about the legal and logistical implications of denying the agreement, and the panel postponed taking action on the matter in October until county staff could address the issues.
There was little discussion before the vote Wednesday, though before casting his lone dissenting vote Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) repeated his belief that the franchise should get more consideration.
“Some of us vote no, sometimes, and we’re all alone. I feel like that today,” Delgaudio said. “I’m going to have to take my stand… I think we should continue the negotiations.”
Erika Hodell-Cotti, president of the Southern Walk Homeowners’ Association -- which filed one of the lawsuits in August -- said her community was pleased with the outcome.
“OpenBand refused to negotiate with their customer(s) or the county and their actions resulted in the county using their sound judgment to deny their [agreement],” she said in a statement. “The HOA’s main focus has and will continue to be our residents, who want to receive quality video service at a competitive rate.”
OpenBand expressed disappointment at the board’s decision in a company statement.
“For two years, OpenBand has negotiated in good faith and has acquiesced to virtually every request made by Loudoun County, including service expansions, system upgrades, and enhanced penalties for the failure to perform,” the statement said. “The public record in support of approving OpenBand’s franchise agreement is overwhelming... simply put, there was no objective, non-political basis for the Board of Supervisors’ action.”
The company will continue to provide service going forward “as it considers the best course of action to protect its rights and its customers,” according to the statement.
This story has been updated.