Print Page  Close Window

SEC Filings

S-1/A
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, INC. /MO/ filed this Form S-1/A on 09/28/1999
Entire Document
 
<PAGE>   147
 
THEFT PROTECTION
 
     The unauthorized tapping of cable plant and the unauthorized receipt of
programming using cable converters purchased through unauthorized sources are
problems which continue to challenge the entire cable industry. We have adopted
specific measures to combat the unauthorized use of our plant to receive
programming. For instance, in several of our regions, we have instituted a
"perpetual audit" whereby each technician is required to check at least four
other nearby residences during each service call to determine if there are any
obvious signs of piracy, namely, a drop line leading from the main cable line
into other homes. Addresses where the technician observes drop lines are then
checked against our customer billing records. If the address is not found in the
billing records, a sales representative calls on the unauthorized user to
correct the "billing discrepancy" and persuade the user to become a formal
customer. In our experience, approximately 25% of unauthorized users who are
solicited in this manner become customers. Billing records are then closely
monitored to guard against these new customers reverting to their status as
unauthorized users. Unauthorized users who do not convert are promptly
disconnected and, in certain instances, flagrant violators are referred for
prosecution. In addition, we have prosecuted individuals who have sold cable
converters programmed to receive our signals without proper authorization.
 
FRANCHISES
 
   
     As of June 30, 1999, our systems operated pursuant to an aggregate of 1,247
franchises, permits and similar authorizations issued by local and state
governmental authorities. As of June 30, 1999, on a pro forma basis, we held
approximately 4,250 franchises in the aggregate. Each franchise is awarded by a
governmental authority and is usually not transferable unless the granting
governmental authority consents. Most franchises are subject to termination
proceedings in the event of a material breach. In addition, most franchises
require us to pay the granting authority a franchise fee of up to 5.0% of gross
revenues generated by cable television services under the franchise (i.e., the
maximum amount that may be charged under the Communications Act).
    
 
     Our franchises have terms which range from 4 years to more than 32 years.
Prior to the scheduled expiration of most franchises, we initiate renewal
proceedings with the granting authorities. This process usually takes three
years but can take a longer period of time and often involves substantial
expense. The Communications Act provides for an orderly franchise renewal
process in which granting authorities may not unreasonably withhold renewals. If
a renewal is withheld and the granting authority takes over operation of the
affected cable system or awards it to another party, the granting authority must
pay the existing cable operator the "fair market value" of the system. The
Communications Act also established comprehensive renewal procedures requiring
that an incumbent franchisee's renewal application be evaluated on its own merit
and not as part of a comparative process with competing applications. In
connection with the
 
                                       144