Montgomery County's cable television company, which faces the loss of its franchise for halting construction on the county's cable TV system, has curtailed the number of homes being wired for service, because of a shortage of electronic equipment, company officials said yesterday.
The cutback, prompted by the bankruptcy of Tribune-United Cable Co.'s main supplier of electronic components, is the latest setback for the financially troubled system, and means new delays for county residents eager to join the cable television revolution, county officials said.
"Obviously, we're not happy. That just adds to the woes," said Alexander J. Greene, a special assistant to County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist.
Tribune-United, which won the right three years ago to build the system, is battling the county's efforts to revoke its franchise because it halted construction and other alleged contract breaches.
Tribune-United's parent firm, Tribune Co. of Chicago, is trying to sell the system and has asked for sweeping modifications in the contract to stem what it claims are potentially huge financial losses. The company hopes to announce a buyer next month, a Tribune official said.
Tribune-United stopped building the system in October, but said it would continue wiring the 75,000 homes in the county that are capable of receiving service. Yesterday, a company official said that those efforts are being curtailed, as well.
"We are not going to sell or install cable television for as many people as we have in the past . . .because we're not sure what we're going to get in equipment," said Joseph P. Lawson, director of marketing for Tribune-United. "Unfortunately, this situation is totally out of our control."
About 20,000 of the 228,000 households in the county receive the cable service. The company has sold its service to 54,000 other homes and had been adding 600 subscribers a week, Lawson said.
But Texscan Inc., a company that supplies key electronic components, filed for bankruptcy last month, and this has disrupted shipments to the cable system, Lawson said.
He said the company has stopped soliciting cable television subscriptions, but will continue, on a limited basis, to wire the homes of people who ask for service.
About 400 county residents are signed up and awaiting installation, and the company will wire up to 350 new homes a week for the rest of the month, according to Lawson.