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Comcast accused of cutting competitor’s wires to put it out of business



A tiny Internet service provider has sued Comcast, alleging that the cable giant and its hired contractors cut the smaller company's wires in order to take over its customer base.



Telecom Cable LLC had "229 satisfied customers" in Weston Lakes and Corrigan, Texas when Comcast and its contractors sabotaged its network, the lawsuit filed last week in Harris County District Court said.


Comcast had tried to buy Telecom Cable's Weston Lakes operations in 2013 "but refused to pay what they were worth," the complaint says. Starting in June 2015, Comcast and two contractors it hired "systematically destroyed Telecom’s business by cutting its lines and running off its customers," the lawsuit says. Comcast destroyed or damaged the lines serving all Telecom Cable customers in Weston Lakes and never repaired them, the lawsuit claims.


Telecom Cable owner Anthony Luna estimated the value of his business at about $1.8 million, which he is seeking to recover. He is also seeking other damages from Comcast and its contractors, including exemplary damages that under state statute could "amount to a maximum of twice the amount of economic damages, plus up to $750,000 of non-economic damages," the complaint says.


CourtHouse News Service has a story about the lawsuit, and it posted a copy of the complaint.


“We disagree with Telecom’s claim and will vigorously defend ourselves,” Comcast VP Ray Purser said in a statement provided to Ars. Comcast did not offer any further response to the allegations, and has not yet filed an official answer to Luna's complaint.


Luna says he did not oppose Comcast's entry into Weston Lakes. Before Comcast began construction, Telecom Cable "made special efforts to mark its lines and equipment to prevent any inadvertent damage. Using an RF modulated transmitter and inductive connection to the cable, Mr. Luna located Telecom’s underground lines and marked the lines with industry-standard orange paint, as well as 'buried cable flags' for prompt and easy identification," the complaint says. "Mr. Luna also mailed a map of Telecom’s system to the Director of Construction at Comcast’s Tidwell office."


But then Luna was notified of service outages and "rushed to the job site" where he "found his severed mainline cable" along with Comcast contractors who were installing their own cable, the complaint says.


"The foreman acknowledged that Telecom's cables had been marked—freshly marked, in fact—but the crew had inexplicably ignored the markings, purportedly because they assumed that the fresh orange paint marked an 'abandoned' cable plant," the complaint says.


Luna says he repaired his own company's cable and then made "futile" attempts to contact Comcast and a Comcast contractor.


Even if the first cable cuts were unintentional, "Defendants’ pattern of continuing to cut Telecom’s lines after being notified, and their refusal to repair the damage they caused, indicates conduct that was clearly willful and intentional," the complaint states.


The lawsuit was filed against Comcast and contractors Aspen Utility Company and A&A Cable Contractors. The contractors "acted as Comcast's agents on Comcast's authority," and "their actions were done on behalf of Comcast and for Comcast's benefit," so "Comcast is equally liable for those actions," the complaint says.


While Luna tried to repair Telecom Cable's destroyed equipment, he says his company did not have enough time to obtain replacement cable and "reinstall its entire system in time to keep its customer base."


"As Comcast well knows, cable television and Internet customers will not wait indefinitely for resumption of their service," the lawsuit says. "Predictably, Telecom’s customers deserted it. By August 1, 2015, Telecom had no customers in Weston Lakes. Upon information and belief, Comcast has now taken over the vast majority of Telecom’s former customers in Weston Lakes."


Telecom Cable went out of business, and Luna and his wife moved to New York in order to find new jobs.


"Through no fault of their own, they were forced to say goodbye to the life they knew, uproot their three children, take lesser-paying jobs (and make ends meet in a place with a much higher cost of living), move 1,500 miles, and cram into a 900-sq. ft. rental home while they sold their 4500-sq. ft. home back in Texas," the complaint said.



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I'd believe it. I do like Comcast as they provide great speeds at a good price. (assuming you get 3rd party hardware instead of their stock gateway unit) But I would totally agree that they would stoop this low to do something.

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229 customers is nothing, even as far as independent small-town ISP's go. I find it hard to imagine Comcast feeling threatened by them at all.


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I would not put it past comcast or maybe more specifically the sub contractors they hire out that get paid per unit, and probably are paid more for "new" installs.  It may be a small isp, however market share and growth is what comcast shareholders demand.


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Whether Comcast did it intentionally or not, if it's true that their cables were repeatedly cut then it is not fair in the slightest that they lose everything they had.  I wouldn't play the "wahhh we had to move to new york with this absurd cost of living!" card though.  There are other places to move to...but I don't think they should just get run off after losing their business.

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