Comcast could go dark in Tennessee amid pole attachment dispute

Google Fiber pole attachment screencap

A Tennessee utility company has threatened to remove Comcast’s cables from its poles if the MSO doesn’t pay $176,000 the utility claims it's owed by June 28.

"We've been going back and forth with them for going on three years now trying to get payment out of them," said Scott Sims, CFO for Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corp., to WREG-TV Memphis.

The utility, which serves around 50,000 customers in Tipton County, Tennessee, said it delivered a 30-day “final” notice to Comcast in late May, seeking a payment on a charges dating back to June 2014. It is unclear as to how many of the utility’s 50,000 customers also subscribe to Comcast services. 

For its part, Comcast is disputing the amount of the bill, claiming the utility double-charged it in 2015 after it allegedly found pole attachments Comcast hadn’t been paying for. Comcast said it requested evidence supporting the charges, but that it hasn’t been provided. 

"Since receiving that information, we have completed our own audit and are taking the appropriate next steps to arrange for payment in the correct amount," Comcast said in a statement. "We look forward to working with STEMC to resolve this issue quickly and ensure that our mutual customers’ services are not disrupted.”

The utility has a message on the front door of its website, warning Comcast subscribers that if they’re connected to the MSO via lines on STEMC poles, “they will be affected.”

“We regret that some customers may lose their Comcast service,” the utility said in its statement. “However, the full cost and maintenance of these utility poles are borne by all members of STEMC, and we cannot allow STEMC members to subsidize Comcast’s services.  We are hopeful that Comcast will make payment prior to the deadline and avoid the need to remove their cable attachments.”