Southern Walk resident writes

From Leesburg Today, July 6, 2010

Dear Editor:

I am writing as a resident of Loudoun County, living in the Southern Walk at Broadlands community. I am also on the Board of Directors of the Southern Walk at Broadlands HOA, but today I am speaking for myself.

Our HOA is currently locked in to a 65-year contract with Openband to provide video, telephone, and Internet service to all homes in the community. Our community includes residents who are out of work, homes where these services have been turned off due to non-payment, and homes that are in foreclosure and vacant. The HOA must pay Openband for these homes, whether service has been cut off or whether anyone is even living there to receive the services.

Openband was marketed to potential homebuyers as a cutting-edge, next-generation service that would give homeowners top-notch services beyond anything else on the market. Now, just a few years into the contract, we are left with sub-par services which are far behind what is available to other residents of Loudoun County from competitive service providers. Openband has no incentive to improve their service-we are a guaranteed revenue stream for them for the next 65 years.

The HOA pays Openband more than $140/month for every home (vacant or not) in the community. This is for base-level service, it does not include HD channels, long-distance service, a static IP address, or even call-waiting. Many homeowners have subscribed to satellite service despite having to make payments to both Openband and their satellite provider.

The HOA, the utility easements in the neighborhood, and the contract with Openband are constructed in such a way that potential competitors are locked out of the neighborhood, and residents have no negotiating power to improve pricing or service offerings.

The Southern Walk HOA exists only to collect payments from homeowners for Openband. It entered into the contract with Openband, partially owned by the declarant, while the HOA was declarant controlled, before a single home was built. It does not provide any normal HOA services, such as common area maintenance, covenants enforcement, or snow removal. These are provided by a separate HOA. Although the HOA is now controlled by the homeowners, it is stuck with the existing contract and no power to change it.

At $140/month over 65 years for 1,100 homes, Openband stands to receive over $120 million in payments from homeowners in Southern Walk, and the homeowners have absolutely no say in the matter. This is not competitive or fair in any way.

I urge the Board of Supervisors and the county to take action to restore competition to Loudoun County, and give residents of OpenBand communities the ability to negotiate and choose among several providers for the best deal for their cable, telephone, and Internet services.

Douglas Granzow, Southern Walk

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