Time Warner takes heat from local residents

Published 11:55 am Friday, January 23, 2009

Ironton, Ohio and the state capital, Columbus, are separated by many miles and, these days, by one local cable company that recently took a Columbus television network from its channel lineup.

Thursday night, some aggravated area residents and members of Ironton City Council took a Time Warner Cable Company representative to task for that decision.

Terry Null, of South 10th Street, told TWC general manager Russ Pomphrey that WBNS was, for many, the primary means of getting state news. He was also upset the company announced its decision two days before WBNS was pulled off the lineup in late December.

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“I think there should be some answers,” Null said.

Pomphrey said he understood the every channel has its following, but TWC has limited band width and much of WBNS’ programming had to be blacked out since it competed with the fellow CBS affiliate, WOWK of Huntington, W.Va., a station TWC is required by the FCC to carry since it is local.

Null countered that Ashland, Ky., residents are still getting their Lexington network — a differentiation that was not lost on Alan Moore, of South Seventh Street.

“Ironton has been the stepchild in this cable network for a long time,” Moore said. “It started with Adelphia and you didn’t straighten it out.”

He questioned why Portsmouth and Jackson, both served by TWC, have WBNS. Pomphrey said it was because Ironton is in the same division as Huntington and Ashland.

“Is Portsmouth?” Moore asked.

“I’m not sure,” Pomphrey said.

Moore pointed out that Ironton customers also get fewer high definition channels than other areas but pay roughly the same for cable service.

“I’m not happy,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m getting the right amount of programming for the money or the programming we want.”

Karen McCown, of Eighth Street, countered that channel 10, that once carried the old WTSF, is not being used. Could it be used for WBNS?

Ironton City Councilman Mike Lutz told Pomphrey the decision to pull WBNS was made worse by a lack of communication, since TWC waited until the last minute to announce the Columbus station was being pulled.

“No one knew,” Lutz said.

Fellow council member Leo Johnson asked Pomphrey what would happen if, when TWC’s franchise expires with the city, it simply wasn’t renewed?

“Another provider would have to come in,” Pomphrey said.

“And they would do what?” Johnson pressed.

“There would be an exchange of assets,” Pomphrey replied.

Mayor Rich Blankenship told Pomphrey he called the national TWC headquarters and learned a group vice president would be in the area next week.

Blankenship asked Pomphrey to arrange a meeting so he could discuss the matter with her. Also, Pomphrey will meet with city council in the near future to discuss what headway he has made in getting WBNS put back into the Ironton lineup.