Morganton has been in the cable television business since January of 1993 when it first began to serve customers. Morganton got into the business because the local cable television service provider, (in fact it was the world’s largest telecommunications company), refused to improve the cable television system in Morganton.
In 1992, after a long court battle that lasted more than four years, and the vote and affirmation of the citizens, Morganton borrowed $4 million and started building a modern, state-of-the-art cable television system.
The system provides service to about 4,500 homes in Morganton and about 10,350 people. Morganton has a population of about 17,000 people. CoMPAS Cable TV offers service to every household and business. Everyone in the City of Morganton has available modern cable television service and high speed internet service.
In Morganton when a customer has a complaint, they call a local customer service representative and when there is an outage, local service technicians are dispatched within a matter of minutes for same day service.
Technology changed and in July of 2004, the communications system was rebuilt and improved to meet the demands of the citizens for more and better service. High-speed internet service was added as was better cable television service. The City borrowed about $7.2 million to upgrade the system.
Chronology of CoMPAS Cable TV
October 25, 1966: City grants original franchise to Morganton Cable TV for a 20-year term. Morganton Cable TV builds a 12-channel system. The system and franchise is transferred and ultimately ends up assigned to Madison Cablevision, Inc., which was owned by Telecommunications, Inc. (“TCI”) the world’s largest provider of communication services at the time.
1980: Madison refuses to add ESPN as a basic service in Morganton or to upgrade service.
1982: UNC plays Georgetown for NCAA men’s basketball championship. Local citizens demand ESPN in order to watch the game. Madison refuses to provide ESPN service, but Madison did provide ESPN service in nearby communities. Madison’s refusal appeared to be a bullying tactic to try to obtain a franchise extension. The citizens demanded that the City find a different cable TV company to provide service in Morganton. Groups appeared before the Council to complain.
August 1983: Phil Caldwell, Madison Manager proposes first major upgrade of cable system, but demands a five-year extension of the franchise. He offers to provide four additional basic channels plus four pay channels, all with a substantial rate increase.
December 21, 1983: The City received a formal proposal from Madison, but other cable companies offered to provide more channel capacity. The City encouraged Madison to add ESPN. Phil Caldwell, the local manager, privately admitted to City Manager Doug Bean that ESPN was a bargaining chip for a franchise extension or renewal. The City Council feeling that it was being bullied, denied the extension of the franchise.
Spring 1984: Consultants completed detailed studies of the Morganton cable television situation. The Consultants determined that the services being provided in Morganton were substantially less than the services Madison was providing in other nearby communities.
September 24, 1984: City issued a request for information and asked Madison, Burke Cable Television and Catawba Valley Cable Television to submit proposals.
October 10, 1984: After seeing that Morganton was serious about its cable television issues, Madison announced plans for a modest upgrade to the system.
November 14, 1984: A well-publicized public hearing was held by the City with Madison, Burke Cable and Catawba Valley Cable all making major presentations. The City also presented its own proposal for building a cable television system. Madison testified that only one system could survive in Morganton. At the time, Madison claimed its system had a 36-channel capacity, but Madison was only providing 13 channels of service and repeatedly said that additional service could not be added unless its franchise was extended.
September 9, 1985: City Council officially enacted cable television ordinances declining to renew the Madison franchise; rejected the other proposals as inadequate and directed the staff to start plans to build a municipal cable television system. Madison was directed to make plans for the removal of its system at the expiration of its franchise.
January 5, 1986: TCI (Madison Cablevision, Inc.), filed lawsuit in federal court seeking over $35 million in damages because the City refused to renew its franchise.
July 3, 1986: After a lengthy hearing, Federal Judge Woodrow Jones entered an order which granted the City a partial summary judgment in the lawsuit, but also ordered Madison to file a State court lawsuit to determine whether cities were authorized to own cable television systems under N.C. law.
September 12, 1986: Madison filed lawsuit in Burke County Superior Court to determine applicable State law. City filed answer and motion for summary judgment.
October 25, 1986: The original Madison Cable Television Franchise expired.
March 1987: Judge Robert Gaines granted the City’s motion for summary judgment by ruling that North Carolina law authorized the City to engage in the cable television business. Madison appealed to the NC Court of Appeals. The matter bypassed the Court of Appeals and went directly to the NC Supreme Court.
December 7, 1989: The Supreme Court of North Carolina (325 NC 634) issued its landmark decision confirming that North Carolina law authorized cities to engage in the cable television business and that TCI had no claims under North Carolina law.
May 4, 1990: Both parties went back to federal court for a final ruling in the federal lawsuit. Judge Woodrow Jones ruled in favor of the City of Morganton on all counts and dismissed Madison’s lawsuit. The matter was appealed by Madison to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
March 8, 1991: The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a per curium decision, denied Madison’s appeal and ruled in favor of the City. The Supreme Court of the U.S. denied discretionary review and let the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the City of Morganton stand.
October 8, 1991: City elections. TCI recruits candidates to run against City officials and ran radio and newspaper ads. The incumbents won with 70% of the vote.
January 1991: Even before the Supreme Court denied certiorari, Madison indicated that it was going to refuse to abide by the Court orders and began circulating a petition providing for an initiative and referendum in the City.
Madison proposed the adoption of an ordinance that required the City not to operate a system and required the City to grant Madison a franchise for a system of its choosing.
March 10, 1992: Ballot initiative voted on in the City of Morganton. The voters of Morganton by a vote of 2777 to 1169, voted to deny Madison its franchise and to direct the City to build a local cable television system.
Summer 1992: City began making plans and constructs its own fiber-optic cable television system at a cost of over $4 million. First Citizens Bank loans the money to the City under installment financing authorized by G.S. 160A-20. The Local Government Commission approves the issuance of the debt by the City after reviewing the City’s plans to enter into the cable television business. The service is offered to every customer inside the City limits.
January 1993: City connects its first customers.
July 2004: Because of customer demand for improved and increased services, the entire City cable system is rebuilt and high speed Internet service is offered. The rebuild cost over $7.2 million. LGC again approved the issuance of installment debt under G.S. 160A-20 with First Citizens providing the financing.
April 2010: On April 27, 2010, CoMPAS launched another service for residents - digital home telephone service, a.k.a. 'Voice'. Voice telephone service has all the features of a normal land-line, and many extra features such as Address Book, Anonymous Call Rejection, Call Block, Call Forward, Call Logs, Call Return, Call Waiting, Caller ID, Do Not Disturb, Find Me, Outbound Caller ID Block, Three-Way Calling, Voicemail, and Voicemail to E-mail.
Voice also allowed CoMPAS to start offering Triple Play Packages to customers. Triple Plays allow customers to bundle their cable television, Internet and home phone service and save money!
Now: CoMPAS Cable TV, Internet and Phone provides access to more than 300 cable television channels, 4 Premium Packages, Digital Sports, 45+ HD Channels, 48 Music Channels and inDemand provides access to all the latest movies and events.
With CoMPAS broadband Internet, residents can surf the web on speeds up to 10 Mbs, and CoMPAS also offers Metro Ethernet service for businesses with matching download and upload speeds starting at 3.0 Mbs and higher.
Morganton residents and business owners can also bundle phone service with their television and Internet.