CenturyLink gets go-ahead to begin offering TV service in Springs

The Gazette  (Colorado Springs)

Andrew Wineke

July 10, 2012


In a 5-2 vote Tuesday, City Council approved a cable franchise agreement for CenturyLink to begin offering television service alongside its phone and internet offerings.

CenturyLink officials said bringing in a major competitor to Comcast would lower rates for subscribers and bring new jobs and investment to the city. CenturyLink plans to begin offering TV service in early 2013.

“We’re very excited to get started,” said Jim Campbell, CenturyLink’s regional vice president for regulatory affairs. “I think it was the consumers of Colorado Springs that won today.”

However, several community leaders at the meeting said they were concerned that the company wasn’t offering concrete promises to serve the city’s low-income areas. That practice, known as “redlining,” is illegal and CenturyLink officals said they don’t engage in it.

The company wouldn’t commit to specific targets for serving low-income areas, but promised it would offer substantial service to different income areas.

“If they gave more information, I don’t think we would have those concerns,” said Rev. Savannah Jackson, associate minister at Emmanuel Baptist Church. “That language, ‘substantial,’ was a problem, because, what does that mean?”

Council members echoed both sides of the issue. Councilwoman Angela Dougan said that supporting the deal should have been an easy decision.

“I’m saying, give me a number, so that I have something to hold you to more than ‘significant,’” said Dougan, who voted against the deal.

Councilman Bernie Herpin said he’s a loyal Comcast customer and spends more than $200 a month with the cable company. But, he said, competition is good for the city and that, after seeing CenturyLink’s top secret rollout map, he believes the company will serve all areas of the city.

“I don’t understand the misgiving and the mistrust,” Herpin said. “The initial rollout, from what I’ve seen, is going to be over 50 percent what we would consider lower income areas.”

CenturyLink promised to provide service to at least 25 percent of the city within three years. Company officials say that expanding that coverage will depend on how quickly its customer base grows. CenturyLink’s Campbell said the company will report to city staff quarterly on its expansion plans and that the burden is on it to prove it’s serving all income areas.

Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink acquired Denver’s Qwest in 2010. The company has already rolled out its TV offering in eight other cities around the country, but Colorado Springs and El Paso County will be the first in the former Qwest territory.