Cable competition comes a little bit closer for NSCC

Member cities in the North Suburban Communications Commission are getting closer to a competitive cable television market.

Potential Twin Cities cable TV provider CenturyLink has until Feb. 20 to submit a franchise application to to the commission.

Cor Wilson, executive director of CTV, NSCC's sister organization, is confident the telecom company, which currently only offers voice and Internet service in the metro, will do so by that deadline. She says the commission is planning a public hearing on the franchise application at its March 5 meeting.

"Who knows when we'll have a final franchise, but we'll have an application," Wilson said.

NSCC is made up of Arden Hills, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Little Canada, Mounds View, New Brighton, North Oaks, Roseville and St. Anthony.

CenturyLink has pitched other metro cities, including Minneapolis, on bringing in its pay television service, "Prism."

Wilson said the North Metro Telecommunications Commission, which serves Blaine and neighboring communities, as well as the South Washington County 

Telecommunications Commission are planning public hearings on CenturyLink franchise applications this month.

For NSCC, early indications are that a potential CenturyLink franchise, or service agreement, would look similar to the recently extended franchise agreement that the commission has with Comcast, Wilson said.

A few key details still need to be ironed out, Wilson said, including cable infrastructure build-out schedules. Minnesota state law requires cable companies to be able to provide service to entire cities all at once.

CenturyLink, in its initial pitch to NSCC and elsewhere, has said it would not submit to a build-out schedule of any kind, and contends that a federal law supersedes that state code.

Wilson said following NSCC's public hearing, the commission will vote on whether to recommend the franchise to member cities, who would then vote individually on entering into an agreement with CenturyLink.

As for Shoreview, which exited the cable commission last year, City Manager Terry Schwerm says the city has had no discussions with CenturyLink about a franchise agreement, which the city now negotiates on its own.

"I'm not sure if they think we're still a part of the NSCC," Schwerm said.

No Greatland Connections?

National reports say momentum for the planned merger of Comcast and Time Warner has slowed. For some time, Comcast has planned to shed its Twin Cities customers in order to decrease its market share and curry favor with the Federal Communications Commission to help the merger along.

In vacating the metro, Comcast would leave a successor cable company behind, called Midwest Cable with the customer-facing name of Greatland Connections, along with many questions about pricing, customer service providers and the like.

Without the merger, no such move would be necessary.

"That's kind of what we're hearing," Wilson said. "There's been a lot of delays [at the FCC with the merger.]

"The longer it drags out, the less likely it becomes either approved or for there to be conditions that Comcast and Time Warner aren't willing to accept," she added.

"I'm just sitting here waiting for things to happen."

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.


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