By Crystal Owens
Loudoun Times Mirror
Aug. 8, 2011
A Lansdowne homeowners association on Aug. 3 unanimously voted to file suit against Dulles-based telecommunications firm OpenBand.
In a letter to residents, members of the Lansdowne on the Potomac Homeowners Association’s board of directors said they’ve authorized Washington, D.C.-based law firm Wiltshire & Grannis to file and serve the formal legal complaint against OpenBand.
It’s not known when the firm intends to serve the lawsuit.
Once the lawsuit is served, the homeowners association will become the second to sue the firm.
The Southern Walk at Broadlands Homeowners Association sued OpenBand on May 13, alleging the firm violated Federal Communications Commission anti-trust laws. A U.S. District Court judge on July 29 dismissed that lawsuit without prejudice, meaning Southern Walk can refile at any time.
The Lansdowne on the Potomac Homeowners Association, a residential community of 2,155 homes near Ashburn, is one of several communities where OpenBand has exclusive easement rights. In addition to Southern Walk at Broadlands, the firm also serves Leisure World.
OpenBand holds an exclusive easement contract with Broadlands’ developer Van Metre, which was agreed on in 2001, that allows the telecommunications carrier to provide service to residents for at least 25 years, with an option for an extension of up to 75 years.
The exclusive easements in the communities prevent other providers from establishing service lines, although some residents have opted to pay additional fees for satellite dish services.
In a letter to residents, the Lansdowne HOA board of directors said it has been reviewing the community’s relationship with OpenBand during the past several years, including the firm’s lapsed county-issued franchise agreement, duration of contract, cost and levels of service, among others.
“The Board has also attempted to open dialogue with OpenBand on these issues but not not been offered any meaningful response to compromise or resolve any of these items,” the letter says.
The HOA board since 2010 has held 10 special meetings and two town hall meetings to discuss its relationship with OpenBand, according to the letter.
The cost to sue OpenBand is estimated to be $350 to $500 per household during the next 12 to 18 months, the board says in the letter. The current potion of HOA assessments paid to OpenBand on a monthly per home basis is about $148.
Editor’s Note: OpenBand is a subsidiary of M.C. Dean, a Dulles-based engineering firm. M.C. Dean is the former owner of the Loudoun Independent, which merged with the Loudoun Times-Mirror in July 2010. Bill Dean, M.C. Dean CEO and president, holds a minority interest in ArCom Publishing and sits on its board of directors.