Adieu Adelphia: Comcast buys our cable gu

Sure, Adelphia has garnered its share of complaints from subscribers over the years, but did anybody really want to get rid of it?

Well, the cable company that's held the Charlottesville franchise will soon be history if a $17.6 billion deal between media giants Time Warner and Comcast is approved. Then there'll be a new cable company to complain about.

Adelphia, with approximately 34,000 local subscribers, has been struggling since 2002, when its founders, the Rigas family, were indicted for using the company, in the words of prosecutors, as their own "personal piggy bank."

That same year, Adelphia, the nation's fifth largest cable company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Some industry watchers predicted a hasty demise, but Adelphia held on for another two years before announcing the deal that splits its assets between Comcast and Time Warner. Charlottesville falls into the Comcast piece of the pie.

"It's a very complex transaction," says Adelphia spokeswoman Erica Stull. She estimates 9 to 12 months before the deal closes– and first the bankruptcy court, the FCC, SEC, and Justice Department must bless the acquisition.

Stull expects service to remain uninterrupted, and the 136 local Adelphia employees most likely will keep their jobs.

Adelphia signed a 10-year franchise with the city of Charlottesville in 2003. "The provisions say if it's transferred, the new company has to sign on to the franchise," says City Attorney Craig Brown.

"Generally speaking, Adelphia systems in Virginia are coming to Comcast, should closing conditions be met," says Mitchell Schmale at Comcast.

Comcast is the nation's largest cable company, and its biggest concentration in Virginia is in Richmond and Northern Virginia. Locally, Adelphia employees are reluctant to speak on the record, but some see the deal as a positive move.

At the corporate level, "It's good to have some closure," says Stull. "There's been quite a bit of uncertainty. And certainly one of the new management's objectives is to maximize value for creditors."

One question Stull can't answer: Should broadband Internet subscribers at expect a new email address at "You'll have plenty of time if that changes," Stull says.