HOUSTON (CN) — A small telecom in Texas claims in court that Comcast drove it out of business by digging up and destroying its cables after it refused a buyout offer.
Anthony Luna, owner of Telecom Cable, sued Comcast and its contractors Aspen Utility and A&A Cable Contractors in Harris County Court, claiming they cut Telecom’s underground cables and disrupted service to its 229 customers in Weston Lakes, west of Houston.
Telecom Cable was unable to repair the cables as fast as the defendants destroyed them, and had to fold after a battle of six weeks, according to the June 14 complaint.
“As Comcast well knows, cable television and internet customers will not wait indefinitely for resumption of service,” the complaint states. “Predictably, Telecom’s customers deserted it.”
Luna’s attorney Michael Yanochik said in an interview Tuesday that Comcast approached Luna in 2013 and offered to buy out Telecom Cable’s Weston Lakes operation, where Luna had been doing business since 2007. Luna declined and Comcast walked away.
“That was kind of the end of it,” Yanochik said. “Or so we thought.”
He said Comcast returned and began installing its own cable infrastructure in shared utility easements. “Luna had no problem with that,” Yanochik said. “It’s competition.”
Telecom Cable marked its underground cables with orange flags and spray paint, and sent a map of its infrastructure to Comcast to prevent its workers from accidentally damaging Telecom’s underground cables. Comcast already knew where the underground cables were, though, as it had not returned the map Telecom provided it during the buyout negotiations, according to the complaint.
Soon after Comcast began its own installation, Luna began receiving service outage notices. When he arrived to the job site, he found his underground cables had been cut.
The foreman on site told Luna that he and his workers had assumed the orange markers meant the cable beneath had been abandoned, and the foreman instructed Luna to contact Comcast, though he did not provide Luna with a contact number, the complaint states.
After that first incident, Luna says, Comcast and its contractors began a “campaign of destruction,” in which it cut service to all his customers. While Luna was trying to reach a “responsible party” at Comcast and its contractor, Aspen, three more of Telecom Cable’s lines were cut as workers continued to ignore the orange markers. Luna says the comprehensiveness of the damage makes it difficult to conclude it was a mistake.
“But whether it was intentional, negligent or grossly negligent, they put Telecom out of business and turned Luna’s life upside-down,” Yanochik said.
Luna was forced to close Telecom Cable as his customers abandoned it for Comcast. He and his family had to move from Texas to Upstate New York, where Luna and his wife took lower-paying jobs and gave up their retirement plans.
“The rapid and wrongful destruction of Telecom had clearly foreseeable consequences,” the complaint states. “But what befell the Luna family is the real tragedy of this story.”
Comcast did not return requests for comment.
Luna seeks more than $1 million in damages and punitive damages for negligence, tortious interference with contract, aiding and abetting and conspiracy.
Yanochik is with Murr & Yanochik in Houston.