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The County of Jackson and the City of Carbondale v. Mediacom Illinois

June 25, 2012

THE COUNTY OF JACKSON AND THE CITY OF CARBONDALE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
MEDIACOM ILLINOIS, LLC,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County. No. 10-MR-153 Honorable Christy Solverson, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wexstten

NOTICE Decision filed 06/25/12.

The text of this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a IN THE Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.

JUSTICE WEXSTTEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Spomer and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 On cross-motions for summary judgment arising from a dispute regarding the operation of the defendant's customer service center in Carbondale, the circuit court entered judgment against the defendant, Mediacom Illinois, LLC (Mediacom), and in favor of the plaintiffs, the County of Jackson (the County) and the City of Carbondale (the City). Mediacom appeals, and for the reasons that follow, we affirm.

¶ 2 FACTS

¶ 3 In January 2007, following the expiration of a franchise agreement through which Mediacom had provided cable television services to residents of the City, the City and Mediacom entered into a similar franchise agreement for a term of seven years. See 65 ILCS 5/11-42-11 (West 2006) (granting municipalities the authority to enter into franchise agreements with cable operators). Among other things, the franchise agreement specifically provided that Mediacom would "maintain an office in the City which shall be open to the general public during normal business hours." Although the record on appeal does not indicate when Mediacom opened its customer service center in Carbondale, it does indicate that for some time, the office was located on North U.S. Route 51.

¶ 4 In June 2007, the General Assembly enacted Public Act 95-9, which, inter alia, added the Cable and Video Customer Protection Law as article XXII of the Public Utilities Act (220 ILCS 5/1-101 to 20-120 (West 2006)). Pub. Act 95-9 (eff. June 30, 2007) (adding 220 ILCS 5/70-501to 70-503). Public Act 95-9 also amended the Counties Code (55 ILCS 5/1-1001 to 7-1001 (West 2006)) and the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/1-1-1 to 11-152-4 (West 2006)) to reflect the implementation of article XXII. Pub. Act 95-9 (eff. June 30, 2007) (adding 55 ILCS 5/5-1095(c-1) and 65 ILCS 5/11-42-11(c-1)).

¶ 5 In May 2009, following the expiration of a franchise agreement through which Mediacom had provided cable television services to residents of several unincorporated areas of the County, the County and Mediacom entered into a similar franchise agreement for a term of 10 years. See 55 ILCS 5/5-1095 (West 2008) (granting county boards the authority to enter into franchise agreements with cable operators). Among other things, the franchise agreement specifically provided that Mediacom would continue to operate its local customer service center in Carbondale.

¶ 6 In January 2010, after giving notice of its intent to do so, Mediacom closed its customer service center in Carbondale. Thereafter, the City and the County filed suit against Mediacom, alleging that it had violated its obligations under its existing franchise agreements. Cross-motions for summary judgment followed, and in June 2011, the cause proceeded to a hearing.

¶ 7 In July 2011, the circuit court entered an order granting summary judgment against Mediacom and in favor of the plaintiffs. Rejecting Mediacom's argument that because article XXII's regulatory provisions did not require Mediacom to maintain a local customer service center, it was not obligated to do so despite its existing franchise agreements, the circuit court concluded, "The City, the County, and Mediacom mutually agreed to contracts both valid at the time of their formation and valid after the enactment of the customer service and privacy protection standards of [article XXII]." The circuit court thus held that Mediacom had a contractual duty to maintain its customer service center in Carbondale. The court subsequently denied Mediacom's motion for stay pending the present appeal.

¶ 8 ANALYSIS

ΒΆ 9 Mediacom argues that the circuit court's summary judgment ruling should be reversed because the court misconstrued the legislative intent behind article XXII and its attendant amendments to the Counties Code and the Illinois Municipal Code. The plaintiffs counter that the court rightly upheld the validity of the parties' franchise agreements and that Mediacom's proposed interpretation of ...


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