NSCC recommends cable franchise transfer from Comcast to new company

The North Suburban Communications Commission is recommending its member cities approve a cable franchise transfer from Comcast to Midwest Cable, NSCC said in a Friday afternoon release.

That means that sooner than later, cable customers in the cities that make up NSCC will have a new cable provider.

Part of bigger merger

Commission cities are Arden Hills, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Little Canada, Mounds View, New Brighton, North Oaks, Roseville, St. Anthony and maybe Shoreview, which opted to leave NSCC, but can rescind that decision prior to the end of the year.

Shoreview City Manager Terry Schwerm said Friday the city has yet to make a decision on its NSCC membership.

NSCC also announced a two year extension of its cable franchise agreement with Comcast.

Cities will vote on whether to approve the transfer and extension through the end of the month and into November; Little Canada did so at its Oct. 22 meeting.

The extension, adopted at NSCC's Oct. 9 meeting along with the transfer recommendation, will extend the franchise agreement, once set to expire next month on a separate one year extension, until Dec. 31, 2016.

Midwest Cable is a new company to which Comcast will transfer its Twin Cities customers, a part of shedding market share to make way for Comcast's slated merger with Time Warner.

Comcast needs a smaller share of the market for the merger to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

If the merger goes as planned, NSCC will be able to negotiate a new franchise agreement with Midwest Cable for 2017 and beyond.

NSCC initially balked at the franchise transfer proposal because Comcast provided so little information about Midwest Cable, according to Cor Wilson, executive director of CTV, speaking in mid-August.

CTV is operated by the North Suburban Cable Access Corporation, a sister company of NSCC.

Wilson was out of her office Friday afternoon and did not return calls.

Will keep current funding levels

NSCC and Comcast had been in franchise negotiations for four years. The franchise agreement sets the rules of cable operations in the area and the level of funding for services like public access programming, which is paid for by Comcast customers. NSCC enforces the franchise agreement.

Due to changes in federal law and programming needs, it was widely agreed that any new franchise agreement would have resulted in less funding for public access programming, NSAC and CTV. Through the end of the extension, current funding levels will remain the same.

A Comcast official close to the negotiations did not return calls for comment.

Shoreview left NSCC because of what the city saw as the commission's acrimonious relationship with Comcast, and because of the nearly $1 million the commission had spent on lawyers and negotiations.

According to NSCC, on the following dates, member cities will vote on the transfer and franchise extension agreement:

Oct. 27: Arden Hills and Mounds View (first reading and public hearing)

Oct. 28: New Brighton and St. Anthony

Nov. 3: Shoreview

Nov. 10: Lauderdale, Mounds View (vote) and Roseville

Nov. 12: Falcon Heights

Nov. 13: North Oaks

-- Mike Munzenrider


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