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Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc. v. City of Georgetown

Supreme Court of South Carolina

June 4, 2014

Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc., Appellant,
v.
City of Georgetown, and the South Carolina Secretary of State, Respondents

Heard January 23, 2014

Appeal from Georgetown County. Appellate Case No. 2012-212185. Benjamin H. Culbertson, Circuit Court Judge.

Dominic Allen Starr and Alan Grant Jones, both of McAngus, Goudelock, & Courie, LLC, of Myrtle Beach, for Appellant.

Douglas Charles Baxter, of Richardson Plowden & Robinson, PA, of Myrtle Beach, Andrew F. Lindemann, of Davidson & Lindemann, PA, of Columbia, for Respondent.

JUSTICE PLEICONES. TOAL, C.J., BEATTY, KITTREDGE and HEARN, JJ, concur.

OPINION

Page 133

[408 S.C. 350] PLEICONES JUSTICE

This issue on appeal is whether the City of Georgetown's denial of multiple franchise applications by Horry Telephone Cooperative Inc. to provide cable television was a violation of the South Carolina Competitive Cable Services Act (the Act), S.C. Code Ann. § § 58-12-5 et seq. (Supp. 2013).[1] We hold that it was not.

FACTS

Appellant, Horry Telephone Cooperative Inc. (HTC), is a telecommunications company providing services in the Georgetown and Horry County areas. In 2007, as required by the Act, HTC filed for a state-issued certificate of franchise authority, where it sought to provide cable television services in the City of Georgetown (City). The Secretary of State, pursuant to § 58-12-310, forwarded the notice of application [408 S.C. 351] to the City which was required to respond to the request within 65 days.[2]

The City first took up HTC's request during a city council meeting on November 29, 2007 and approved it. Since a franchise is granted by ordinance, a second reading approval was required. On second reading, the request was denied. The City informed the Secretary of State of the denial, and notice was sent to HTC informing them that their franchise for the City of Georgetown had been denied.

HTC filed for reconsideration, which was ultimately denied. Finally, HTC applied for a third time, and after consideration, the application was tabled and subsequently failed.

HTC filed a declaratory judgment action in circuit court to declare that the City's denial was unlawful under the Act. The circuit court held a bench trial [3] and ruled that the Act did not create a private cause of action and the City's denial of HTC's consent request was a reasonable and valid exercise of legislative discretion. ...


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