Negotiating for more cable access

By Amanda Schwarze

amanda.schwarze@ecm-inc.com

Giving more people the option to receive cable television services is a top priority in the franchise renewal process with Mediacom.

Currently five of the 17 Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission (LMCC) member cities are considered underserved by Mediacom, said LMCC Executive Director Sally Koenecke. Those cities are Independence, Medina, Minnetrista, Orono and Victoria.

According to the previous agreement between the LMCC and Mediacom, Koenecke said, the company was required to build out cable infrastructure in areas where there was a density of at least 30 homes per linear mile. Now LMCC and city officials from underserved areas are meeting to discuss what they should ask Mediacom for to ensure more residents have the option to buy cable services. Koenecke said that they could ask Mediacom during the negotiations to build out to the entire area or they could ask for a lesser density requirement for build-out, such as 20 homes per linear mile.

Koenecke said that the LMCC has no authority over the other services like Internet and phone that Mediacom offers. While the group cannot negotiate for greater Internet access, the negotiations for cable could help people looking for Internet service. The cables used for cable television transmission, Koenecke said, are the same cables the company uses for Internet and phone transmissions.

The franchise renewal process is regulated under federal law, Koenecke said. She said that LMCC officials have been working on it since early 2011 and the plan is to finish the process by December of 2013.

Refusing to allow Mediacom to continue working in the area would be very difficult, Koenecke said. The LMCC does not, however, have an exclusive franchise agreement with the company. That means that another cable company could come into the area and give Mediacom some competition. Koenecke said that LMCC officials have asked other companies to provide service to the area, but all have so far refused. She said that the area is so small that a second company coming in would likely have a hard time making a profit.

In addition to providing services to more residents, Koenecke said that LMCC officials would also make improving customer service and ensuring that the cable plant is functional top priorities during the renewal process with Mediacom.

The LMCC was formed by a Joint Powers Agreement among the cities of Deephaven, Excelsior, Greenwood, Independence, Long Lake, Loretto, Maple Plain, Medina, Minnetonka Beach, Minnetrista, Orono, St. Bonifacius, Shorewood, Spring Park, Tonka Bay, Victoria and Woodland. More about the LMCC can be found online at www.lmcc-tv.org.

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