Northwest suburbs agree to CenturyLink cable franchise

New franchise effective Nov. 26

by CHRISTIAAN TARBOX

Sun POST Newspapers

The Northwest Suburbs Cable Communications Commission agreed to approve a cable franchise application for its nine member cities.

The commission, represented by negotiating attorney Michael Bradley, unanimously voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to approve a cable franchise agreement by CenturyLink, where the cable provider would have a five-year term with the goal to build out each of the commission’s member cities. The member cities of the commission are Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Golden Valley, Maple Grove, New Hope, Osseo, Plymouth and Robbinsdale.

“CenturyLink has already built out all of your member cities with a legacy communication system,” said Bradley. “When we’re talking about building out, we’re really talking about CenturyLink upgrading its facilities to allow it to provide a video service on its existing system, and in some cases, upgrading new facilities all the way to the premises.”

The key issues put forth by the application include complete equitable build-out for each member city based on market success in competition with Comcast, with an initial minimum build-out commitment of 15 percent of each member city over two years.

Beginning Jan. 1 of next year, the commission would meet with CenturyLink every quarter to see the number of locations being served, and the build-out commitment would increase if its penetration rate is at least 27.5 percent in a member city.

The franchise would also prohibit economic redlining, or the act of cherry-picking which residences and businesses receive CenturyLink services. CenturyLink will be required to pay a franchise fee of 5 percent of its gross revenues.

The provider would also offer 13 access channels to metro area subscribers, grouped as a “Northwest Mosaic” on Channel 49, as well as 25 hours of video-on-demand. The 13 access channels will be provided in high definition if the commission sends programming in HD format, which exceeds Comcast’s commitment of up to two channels in HD. Also, within 90 days of putting the franchise deal in effect, CenturyLink will provide complimentary broadband service to one public location per member city.

As noted, CenturyLink’s franchise term is five years, which may be unilaterally extended to an additional five years by the commission if so desired. Comcast’s franchise term is 10 years and is set to expire in 2024.

The commission unanimously voted for the CenturyLink franchise agreement, which will go into effect Saturday, Nov. 26.

Contact Christiaan Tarbox at [email protected] or follow the Sun Post on Twitter @ecmsunpost.