Medina poised to approve Mediacom franchise

Entire city would have fiber optic cable in 3 years

The Medina City Council, Tuesday, April 2, was poised to approve a 10-year franchise agreement with Mediacom to expedite the extension of cable TV infrastructure to under served parts of the city, and along with it, capabilities for accessing high speed internet. 

Then the council decided to table the agreement to its April 16 meeting.

Acting Mayor Elizabeth Weir said she was torn between approving the agreement and tabling action “out of respect for Tom Crosby.” She explained that Mayor Crosby was not feeling well enough to attend the meeting after his latest chemotherapy treatment for cancer. He told her that he wanted Medina to reach an understanding with the Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission (LMCC) about the city’s potential withdrawal from the 17-city consortium. After that, Medina could consider the agreement with Mediacom.

“Tom feels it would be easier to leave the LMCC with a respectful approach,” Weir said. He was concerned about Medina’s reputation. Meanwhile, he expected to feel well enough the following week to meet with the LMCC to discuss the issue.

Medina and Orono are two of five cities that are considered to be under served by cable infrastructure under the current franchise agreement between the LMCC and Mediacom. The document is due to expire at the end of the year, and the two entities are negotiating renewal of the agreement. The LMCC has asked its 17 member cities to approve a resolution making it their sole negotiator with Mediacom. But on March 11, the Orono City Council opted to begin solo talks with Mediacom. And Medina has hired attorney Brian Grogan, of Moss & Barnett, to represent the city in negotiations with Mediacom.

Grogan came to Medina’s April 2 with an agreement with Mediacom that he considered to be ready for City Council approval. However, he recommended that the council first approve a resolution stating that “the LMCC Franchise shall remain in full force and effect until the date on which the City withdraws from the LMCC.” After the withdrawal date the city’s franchise with Mediacom “shall supersede and replace the LMCC Franchise and any previous franchise granted to Mediacom to own, operate and maintain a cable system within the City.”

Ratifying this resolution pertaining to the LMCC would enable Medina to wait on withdrawal from the LMCC, Grogan said. He also urged acting immediately on the agreement with Mediacom. In his experience, “nothing good” could happen by delaying two weeks when the city has “a willing provider.”

Medina resident Judy Mallett has been spearheading Medina’s quest for expediting full build-out of cable TV infrastructure, and Attorney Jane Bremer has been representing Mediacom in its talks with the city.

Bremer commented, “We worked with you to come up with something creative to meet the unique needs of the city. Take your time to consider, but make this a priority.”

She reminded City Councilors that Mediacom wants to begin construction as soon as possible and “the construction season is short.”

Attorney Grogan said the advantages to Medina under the Mediacom agreement “are significant.”

The agreement calls for build out of 30 miles of infrastructure (100 percent access) within three years, and work may be accelerated by mutual agreement. The first 15 miles will be built at Mediacom’s expense, and the second 15 miles will be paid for with a 50/50 cost share between Medina and Mediacom. The city’s contribution would be capped at $180,000.

The first 500 feet of residential installation will be paid for 100 percent by Mediacom. After 500 feet, Mediacom will pay 50 percent of the residential installation’s actual cost. This provision is in the agreement because some Medina homes are located a long distance from the street.

Mediacom would do free installation and cable service to current (four) city buildings. Service to future public buildings will be free, with a cost share for installation after 500 feet.

Other advantages are Medina keeping 100 percent of franchise fees, a 10 year term for the franchise and aggressive customer service, Attorney Grogan said.

The Mediacom agreement also calls for Mediacom including where technically and legally permissible, programing from Wayzata, Orono and the LMCC. Mediacom would provide advice and technical assistance in establishing Medina’s video recording capabilities for government meetings.

Grogan added that he has represented other cities, including Bloomington, in negotiations of this type. “Judy (Mallett) did an excellent job of negotiating.”

Mallett called the Mediacom agreement “a phenomenal opportunity.” Medina could have full build out in two to three years.