The dispute centers on an upgrade fee resulting from technology improvements made to the cable system in the late 1990s
"We feel that there's been a fee that's been erroneously charged -- that the original purpose of the fee was an upgrade, which has been performed and has been paid for," said Wilson City Manager Grant Goings.
So, city leaders approved a resolution that essentially calls the fee bogus. The charge is not listed as a line item on cable bills, but is included in standard cable service. Over four years, that amounts to nearly $700,000 or between $50 and $60 per Wilson customer.
"We've asked that our citizens be refunded those dollars," Goings said.
Time Warner Cable spokesman Brad Phillips calls the dispute a misunderstanding.
"We feel strongly that there are no refunds due to customers," Phillips said.
He says the upgrade fee in the late 1990s was not enough to pay for fiber optic and other technology improvements, so the latest fee is needed for another decade or more.
"It's not sheer profit. This is an amount set aside to cover the cost of the upgrade," Phillips said.
Bob Sepe, a regulatory consultant for various Triangle communities says the Wilson decision could have implications on other Time Warner Cable subscribers because it sets a precedent.
Sepe says that whether you watch television in Wilson, or some place else, customers pay the fee.
Wilson's appeal is now pending with the Federal Communication Commission, but getting other communities involved will be complicated.
Earlier this year, the federal government took away rate regulatory power from most Triangle communities. That decision would have to be rescinded before other customers could try to collect.
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