Letter to the editor about OpenBand

Reposted from Leesburg Today

Sept. 8, 2011

Dear Editor: Where did it all go wrong with OpenBand and Southern Walk? Ten years ago, OpenBand wanted a generation-long contract with this “partner community” and now the community is suing the company not for monetary damages, but for the simple right to not have to do business with OpenBand. How did it come to this?

I wasn’t here ten years ago, but others have told me that the OpenBand system was state-of-the-art back then. Now, other providers who operate in a competitive environment can offer services superior to OpenBand’s at a significantly lower price. A lawyer representing OpenBand recently bragged at a county Board of Supervisors meeting that it would provide more than 90 HD channels by the end of the year, but failed to note that other providers offer 165 HD channels now. In addition, more than half of OpenBand customers call with service issues each quarter. The number is closer to 10 percent for competitive firms.

Given the obvious service shortcomings, Southern Walk came to OpenBand in good faith to negotiate a resolution and the company refused to discuss any terms of the telecommunications contract. Instead of making the necessary investments in its system to fix the problems, OpenBand hired a public relations firm and a lobbying firm for a total of $75,000 per month, retained a high-priced legal firm, and mailed some glossy propaganda to the residents. To me, it doesn’t seem that it is interested in working towards an equitable partnership with its “partner community.”

So let’s review the story: Step 1: OpenBand negotiate a generation-long contract with Southern Walk, which at the time was controlled by the property developer Van Metre, not the residents, and under the contract, OpenBand kick back to Van Metre a percentage of the fees the residents pay. Step 2: OpenBand minimized its investment in the network and allow it to fall woefully behind the competition. Step 3: OpenBand refuses to negotiate any contractual changes with Southern Walk which is now controlled by the residents, leaving them with no other recourse but the legal system. After all, how could a small community ever challenge the resources OpenBand and its parent MC Dean?

It begs the question: Was this actually your plan all along?

John Hines

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