USA Media nixes further PUD ads
The Truckee-Donner Public Utility District learned before the holidays that USA Media will not accept PUD advertising beginning next month for the duration of the lawsuit between the two organizations.In a letter from AT&T Media Services, the advertising representative for USA Media, the district was informed that when their current agreement expires on Jan. 31, TDPUD advertisements will not be accepted. The PUD currently has a federal court-ordered restraining order against USA Media which maintains USA Media must have plans approved by the district before they can attach fiber-optic cable wires to the PUD’s utility poles.The letter was set to be discussed by district staff and board members at last night’s board meeting. As of press-time Wednesday, the board had not yet made a decision on how to direct staff to respond to the letter.According to TDPUD General Manager Peter Holzmeister, the decision was a shock to the district.”I was offended because the legal dispute is being handled already,” he said. “We are now processing their application and are granting them rights to the poles. For them to deny advertising for the district seems heavy-handed.”The district took legal action against USA Media in late November when they were informed USA Media was attaching cable wires to utility poles without first submitting a construction application for approval. Holzmeister said the move was to protect customers by ensuring cable wire construction was done properly, not adding stress to poles or endangering their functions.USA Media Regional Manager Roger Terneuzen said that he couldn’t comment directly to the letter because he hadn’t seen it yet, but indicated the decision to not accept advertising from the PUD was a business decision.”It would be a poor business decision on my part to open up our medium for advertising to someone who has filed a lawsuit against me,” Terneuzen said. “It’s a personal decision, it’s a business decision and it’s an ethical decision.”Terneuzen said that large communications companies typically don’t accept advertising from competitors.The restraining order halted wire attachments until the plans were approved by the district.According to Holzmeister, USA Media is complying with the terms of the order and is currently working with TDPUD electric system engineer Joe Horvath in reviewing USA Media’s applications.”Everything is going along O.K. at least from Truckee-Donner PUD’s point of view,” Holzmeister said. “Joe Horvath has approved all that he’s processed to date. None have been denied.”Holzmeister estimated the process was approximately 20 percent finished.”It seems they’re pressuring us to cave in on the dispute even though a federal judge agrees we’re right,” he said. “The pole dispute is a safety dispute.”The PUD currently airs cable television advertisements that include public safety notices, contact information for service problems, as well as information on water quality and rates. The advertisements don’t mention the PUD intention to enter into the telecommunications business and cable television and Internet services.”We’re trying to pass useful information on to the community,” Holzmeister said. “We try to use all of our advertising methods to reach the greatest number of people.”The district’s legal counsel, Steve Gross, is working with counsel in Sacramento to look into the legality of USA Media denying the district’s advertising pending litigation.Terneuzen said that all applications would be submitted to the district by today, and that the district has indicated they will be prepared to turn those applications around in 30 days. He said they are back putting fiber up now from the applications that have already been approved.”We have complied with everything,” he said. “We’re excited and enthusiastic about getting back to the business of putting up fiber because that will ensure the future of information technology and communication in this community.”
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