Mediacom suffers setback in Iowa City muni broadband battle

A federal judge in Iowa City has ruled that local operator ImOn Communications can proceed with a municipal broadband project, despite a pending lawsuit filed against it by Mediacom Communications. 

Mediacom has sued Iowa City and ImOn, claiming a deal to create a new broadband network violates municipal code requiring a cable franchise agreement to conduct such work. 

The suit is still pending, but U.S. District Court Judge Charles Wolle has denied Mediacom's request for an injunction on ImOn's work. In court documents obtained by local paper The Gazette, Judge Wolle said he couldn't find evidence that Iowa City had acted unlawfully, either by itself or in collaboration with ImOn.

"We knew that getting an injunction was going to be a long shot, but Iowa City and ImOn have been largely unresponsive to our discovery requests and we needed to try and move the case along. It is fundamentally wrong for Iowa City to treat similarity situated competitors differently," Mediacom rep Thomas Larsen told FierceCable. "We plan to continue with litigation until they start regulating Mediacom and ImOn equally. "

The MSO sued Iowa City in January but only added ImOn to the litigation last month. 

"After going through some initial documents received from Iowa City via an Iowa Open Records Law request, we felt compelled to add ImOn to our lawsuit against Iowa City," said Mediacom spokesman Thomas Larsen, in an April email to FierceInstaller

"Based on just the limited number of documents we have received so far, it appears city staff was closely coordinating ImOn's entry into the Iowa City market," he added. 

The emails, excerpts of which were provided to FierceInstaller, reveal collaboration between Iowa City officials and ImOn executives -- interaction which Mediacom says undermines its franchise agreement with the city. 

"ImOn is very excited to be entering the Iowa City market with our broadband, phone and cableTV services. Preliminarily we are targeting to bring up service late this year or early first quarter of 2016," reads an email which Mediacom provided FierceInstaller, revealing alleged planning between the telecom company and the city to pursue projects without a franchise agreement in place.

Mediacom had asked the court to join ImOn's work on the city's network until it secures a franchise agreement. 

For more:
- read this Gazette story

Related articles:
Mediacom loses 2K video subs, adds 29K HSD customers in Q1
Mediacom ropes local operator ImOn into Iowa City muni broadband beef

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