Public comment on CenturyLink’s cable TV application continues through March 13

The North Suburban Cable Commission is taking comments on CenturyLink’s cable television franchise application through noon on Friday, March 13 during an extended public hearing on the issue.

The commission opened the public hearing on the telecommunication company’s bid to enter the wired television market in member cities Arden Hills, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Little Canada, Mounds View, New Brighton, North Oaks, Roseville and St. Anthony at its regular meeting March 5.

Mike Bradley, a lawyer for NSCC on franchise matters, explained that the last time the commission took franchise applications was in the early 1980s, at which time predecessor companies to Comcast began enjoying a monopoly on hard-wired cable television service in the area.

CenturyLink first pitched the commission at a December meeting where company representatives discussed its cable television product, called Prism, and said that cable customers in competitive markets typically save money as competition pushes cable prices down.

This time around, the company explained its intentions in greater detail.

Jim Campbell, a regional vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs for CenturyLink, addressed what he called the “800-lb. gorilla in the room,” state build-out requirements that the company argues are superseded by Federal Communications Commission rules.

Minnesota state law dictates that new cable television franchisees must be able to offer service to an entire city within five years of first wiring up within it. Campbell described the law as “lobbied for and passed by the incumbent,” the incumbent being Comcast, and said it only served as a barrier of entry into the market.

Campbell said an FCC rule prohibiting statewide build-out rules should apply in this instance.

He said CenturyLink would continue on its planned course of delivering service on a “market-based success model,” allowing the service to expand based on customer demand, initially serving 30 percent of the NSCC market, at varying levels from city to city.

Comcast issued a letter to NSCC on the CenturyLink application, in which the company said it welcomed competition so long as each company was held to the same standards.

Comcast said CenturyLink’s build-out plans were in direct conflict with state law, and said the company should be scrutinized on its build-out record in other markets, including in Phoenix, Arizona.

The public had few questions on the franchise application during the meeting, and though Comcast representatives had a chance to speak during the public hearing, they did not.

NSCC will issue a report on the franchise application and the commission will go on to make a recommendation to member cities on whether it should be approved. Member city councils will then have final say on the application, voting it up or down.

Residents of any of the NSCC member cities may comment on the application in writing and mail or drop it off to CTV Executive Director Cor Wilson at 2670 Arthur St., Roseville, MN, 55113—include your name, address and phone number.

Comments can also be emailed to Wilson at cwilson@CTV15.org. All comments are due by noon on Friday, March 13.

—Mike Munzenrider

 

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