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CableLabs & Buckeye Bury the Hatchet

Jeff Baumgartner
11/20/2019

CableLabs and Buckeye Broadband are friends again.

The sides have quietly settled a lawsuit filed by CableLabs in December 2018 alleging that the Ohio-based operator was delinquent in paying dues to the Louisville, Colo.-based R&D organization.

In the suit filed with the Colorado District Court, CableLabs claimed that Buckeye had breached its agreement when it stopped paying those dues to CableLabs in early 2018. CableLabs had argued that Buckeye's agreement with CableLabs required at least three years' notice before termination becomes active. In CableLabs's view, that meant Buckeye's status as a paying member would persist through January 14, 2021.

According to court documents, CableLabs and Buckeye held a settlement conference on September 9, 2019. The case was dismissed on November 8, with each party agreeing to bear its own costs and attorneys' fees.

CableLabs and legal counsel representing Buckeye said the terms of the settlement are confidential. CableLabs confirmed that Buckeye is once again a member of the organization "with all the rights and benefits of membership." Buckeye has also been reinstated to this online list of CableLabs members.

What is not clear is whether Buckeye is currently operating under an option that would allow the operator to terminate its agreement with CableLabs in early 2021.

Meanwhile, keeping Buckeye on board is important to the operation of CableLabs, which generates a portion of its revenues from MSO dues.

When the suit was filed last year, CableLabs noted that Buckeye's alleged delinquent membership dues exceeded the sum or value of $75,000 exclusive of interests and costs. According to CableLabs' most recent bylaws, the initial level of dues is equal to 2 cents per subscriber per member per month, though such dues can be altered for "different classes" of MSO members.

The lawsuit represented a rare, public schism in the usually chummy and collaborative cable industry. But it also came to light as such collegiality has eroded in recent years as the cable industry continues to consolidate and significant technology and engineering decisions are becoming increasingly influenced or driven by major MSOs such as Comcast, Altice USA and Charter Communications rather than by cross-industry organizations.

Some industry insiders viewed the CableLabs lawsuit as a deterrent to ensure that other cable operators would think twice before pulling their membership (and to stop paying dues) without adhering to the three-year termination period. Altice USA, which left the industry trade group NCTA–The Internet & Television Association last fall, told CableFAX last year it had given notice to preserve its option to exit CableLabs.

In addition to dues from cable operator members, CableLabs also gets revenues from its Kyrio subsidiary, including qualification and certification testing of DOCSIS modems and network equipment and other products, and from industry events.

Regarding that events category, CableLabs is busy organizing and preparing for a new cross-industry event called 4Front that will cover areas such as gaming, artificial intelligence, sustainability, healthcare, automotive and security. 4Front is set to run June 23-24 at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center near Denver International Airport.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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