Comcast Completes Fiber Work on Lafayette Resident’s Property - with Help of Police - Amid Access Lawsuit
Comcast workers — escorted by local law enforcement agencies — on Wednesday accessed a piece of Lafayette resident Andrew O’Connor’s property at the heart of an ongoing access dispute, capping some long-delayed work for the city’s fiber network project and likely escalating litigation in the process.
Company officials said the work — which required about an hour’s worth of time splicing some fiber in an above-ground unit — had been completed in short order, though the lawsuit, originally spurred by O’Connor repeatedly denying workers access to an easement on his property without payment, will continue despite the work’s completion.
A Boulder County District Court judge in November granted the company’s motion for a temporary restraining order against the former candidate for both Lafayette City Council and Boulder County commissioner, allowing the company access to a piece of his property that officials claim a right to through an easement agreement with the city.
A federal judge — O’Connor requested the case be moved from state district court to federal court last year, citing the company’s reference to the Cable Communication Policy Act of 1984 in its initial complaint as pertinent to federal law — granted Comcast a writ of assistance last week that allowed the company to access the easement by “force as may be reasonably necessary.”
A hearing is still scheduled to move forward Thursday on Comcast’s temporary restraining order, and for O’Connor’s part, he is doubling down on his civil rights complaint against the company and various law enforcement agencies. He said Wednesday he would amend it to include the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and 20th Judicial District Court Judge Thomas Mulvahill and to increase the damages sought to $50 million after the morning’s incident.
“These guys are bullies,” he said of Comcast. “They’re a multinational corporation and they don’t care about the people and they put profits before the people everyday.”
Wednesday’s work was not entirely uneventful; Lafayette police’s animal control unit tried to restrain O’Connor’s dog with a catchpole while on the property, a sheriff’s office spokesman said. The dog broke its tooth when trying to bite the pole and was taken to the Humane Society for treatment.
“You don’t do that to a (expletive) dog,” O’Connor, who wasn’t home when the company accessed his property, said. “They could have done this a million different ways — they could have called us and told us our dog was out.
“But no, they just had to be bullies.”
The incident comes nearly three months after O’Connor first refused to allow workers for the cable giant into his backyard to complete service — part of a larger fiber-optic expansion project across Lafayette — without payment.
O’Connor, who has said he was merely “standing up for his own private property rights,” had repeatedly demanded the company pay upward of $10,000 to access the above-ground unit on his lot, dismissing the notion that the company was allowed to access the site without his permission.
Company and city officials have disagreed throughout, and according to November case filings, attorneys with Ballard Spahr LLP claimed Comcast and its “predecessors-in-interest have held a cable franchise” with the city since 1983; in 2016, the company renewed that agreement.
That deal authorized the company to access “rights-of-way” located in the city to service “equipment as necessary to the operation of a cable system within the city,” the filing states.
In recent weeks, company officials said they tried to access some of the necessary equipment from a neighboring yard to no avail, and last fall warned that without a remedy, service to surrounding neighbors could be affected, though it’s unclear if that ever came to fruition.
The construction project — aimed at bringing fiber “deeper into Lafayette neighborhoods” to boost broadband across the city — began in late July and was expected to wrap up last year, officials say.
“Citywide in scope,” Lafayette’s website states, “the project involves a combination of construction in the public right-of-way and public utility easements, installation of new and upgraded equipment and changes to the network architecture.”
Comcast spokeswoman Leslie Oliver said that after the work on Wednesday the project in Lafayette is complete.
Staff writer Madeline St. Amour contributed to this report.
Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/_anthonyhahn