A former local cable and broadband provider in Texas alleges that after it turned down Comcast’s offer to acquire the company, Comcast contractors repeatedly severed the smaller business’s cable lines, ultimately driving it out of business.
According to a lawsuit filed last week in a Harris County, TX, court, Comcast approached the owner of Telecom Cable LLC in the summer of 2013, hoping to acquire the company’s service in Weston Lakes, a small city of about 2,500 people a short distance west of Houston.
The lawsuit claims that there were multiple discussions on a possible sale between Aug. 2014 and early 2014, but “Ultimately, Comcast was not willing to pay what Telecom’s operations were worth, and the negotiations ended.”
Comcast still planned to offer service in Weston Lakes, and the plaintiff claims that Telecom Cable was accommodating when it learned that the Philadelphia-based cable colossus would be running new lines in areas where Telecom’s cables were already in place. The lawsuit contends the Telecom made “special efforts to mark its lines and equipment to prevent any inadvertent damage” by Comcast or its contractors.
Telecom’s owner says he even went so far as to locate his company’s underground lines and mark them with industry standard orange spray paint and “buried cable” flags. Beyond that, he claims to have provided Comcast — who already had a map of Telecom’s network from their months of fruitless negotiations — with a second map in 2015.
Then the plaintiff says he received a report of service outages and when to check out the site, where he “found his severed mainline cable.”
He claims that a foreman at the Comcast site acknowledged that the cable had been properly marked, but that his crew ignored the spray-painted markings, thinking they were indicating an abandoned cable plant.
The owner says he was able to repair the damage and restore service, but neither Comcast nor its contractors would respond to his concerns. Meanwhile, he claims that these contractors went on to sever three more Telecom Cable lines.
“Within six weeks, Defendants destroyed or damaged the lines servicing every single Telecom customer in Weston Lakes,” reads the complaint, “and not one of those lines was ever repaired by Defendants.”
The plaintiff says he had to use over 4,000 feet of cable to repair the damage done by the Comcast contractors, but by Aug. 2015 he was effectively out of business in Weston Lakes, as all of Telecom’s customers in the city had cancelled service. The “vast majority” of those customers are now Comcast subscribers, alleges the complaint.
Telecom still had customers in the even smaller town of Corrigan, TX, about two hours away. However, the loss of the Weston Lakes customers meant Telecom’s owner had to take on a second job, making it impossible for him to keep up with the few subscribers that remained. The owner says he and his family had to sell their home and relocate to upstate New York.
The lawsuit accuses Comcast and its contractors of gross negligence, interfering with Telecom’s contracts with its customers, and civil conspiracy.
Telecom is seeking damages equal to what the company was worth “before it was destroyed,” which the plaintiffs calculate as about $1.2 million for the customer base plus another $625,000 for the cable lines and equipment. They also believe they are entitled to all profits Comcast has received from the customers it gained as a result of their alleged violations. Then there are damages for the harm the plaintiffs say their family has endured, plus whatever non-economic damages the court allows.
We’ve reached out to Comcast for comment on this lawsuit and will update when we receive a response.