Comcast owes the city of Brookhaven nearly $1 million in franchise fees it failed to pay the city from 2013 to 2015 and now the city is charging 1 percent interest in an attempt to recoup the money.
Comcast is saying, however, that the city changed its agreement and that is why the company has not paid the money due.
The 1 percent interest rate was tacked on to the Comcast payment of $981,976 during the Brookhaven City Council’s Jan. 26 work session and is effective as of Jan. 15.
“They signed an agreement saying the amount they owed … and we haven’t received our check,” Mayor John Ernst said after the Jan. 26 City Council regular meeting. “We’re putting them on notice and sending a nice letter, yet again, asking them to please send our money.”
In April, Comcast agreed to pay the city the unpaid franchise fees dating from January 2013 through March 2015. However, zero payments have been made to the city, resulting in the council adding the 1 percent per month interest rate.
Comcast also agreed to make quarterly payments on current franchise fees and has been doing so since last year, a city spokesperson said. Franchise fees are paid to local governments by private cable TV companies such as Comcast for use of the public right-of-way for cable. Private cable TV companies typically charge customers franchise fees and are to take that money and pay it to the cities.
Greg Fender of the Georgia Municipal Association informed the council during its Jan. 26 wok session that the city has met all criteria to be paid for the franchise fees. Fender also met with the council for nearly an hour during a closed-door executive session during the council’s work session.
Alex Horwitz, vice president of public relations for Comcast, issued this statement:
Comcast began making franchise payments to the City of Brookhaven as of April 2015, per our franchise agreement.
When the City of Brookhaven transitioned from DeKalb County, there was a period of time where our payments continued to be made to DeKalb, which we corrected.
We ultimately settled on an agreement with the City to make back payments for that period of time. However, the City altered that agreement, which further complicated the situation. The only outstanding issue at this point concerns fees for the period of the delayed transition.
We are merely a conduit for the collection of franchise fees from customers, and payment to local franchising authorities like Brookhaven. We have gone through this process smoothly with all other newly incorporated cities, from Sandy Springs to Peachtree Corners.
We look forward to working closely with the City of Brookhaven to resolve this matter in a timely manner.
Chris Balch, Brookhaven’s attorney, said there has been no change to the agreement between the city and Comcast.
The franchise agreement signed by Comcast calls for all payments of franchise fees to be remitted to the City from January 1, 2013 to March 31, 2015. They have not paid those fees. There has been no change to that agreement as passed by the Council. We’d like them to pay what they owe the City. They have ignored previous correspondence from the City asking of those fees to be remitted. They have no excuse for their failure under the clear terms of the agreement they signed and which the Council approved.