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Loudoun residents seek investigation of cable company

Wednesday - 6/8/2011, 5:05pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Complaints about a Virginia cable company's service and decades-long contract have sparked a federal lawsuit and calls for an anti-trust investigation.

Some of OpenBand's 4,000 customers in Loudoun County say the company has provided shoddy service, but a 25-year contract agreed to without residents' knowledge bars them from seeking another provider because it prohibits another communications company from using the right-of-way.

Erika Hodell-Cotti, president of the Southern Walk Homeowners Association, says there are constant interruptions in TV, phone and Internet service provided by OpenBand.

She also says the contract for the company's services originally was signed by the developer of both the Southern Walk and Lansdowne communities.

"The disclosure of the exclusive contract, or the length of the contract, was never disclosed to the residents when they purchased their homes," says Hodell-Cotti.

The association already has filed a federal lawsuit against the company, and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Tuesday backed the group's request for a state anti-trust investigation by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Hodell-Cotti delivered a formal request for an investigation to Cuccinelli Wednesday.

Update: Sharon Hawkins, a spokesperson for OpenBand -- which is owned by Chantilly-based M.C. Dean -- tells WTOP in a statement the company is continuing to work "in good faith with the county and partner communities toward continued service expansion and enhancements and continued excellence in customer service."

According to a company mailer, OpenBand is negotiating a franchise agreement with the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to continue its services in the Broadlands and Lansdowne areas. The agreement would provide enhanced service, more HD channels and other improved services, the company says.

The mailer also cites a December 2009 survey showing that 71 percent of customers found the company's video services to be average or better. Thirteen percent said the services were excellent.

"We hope that Tuesday's decision by the Board of Supervisors does not slow the franchise agreement approval process significantly, as this request to the Attorney General does not directly impact that decision," Hawkins says.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)