Qwest revisits video franchising with lawmakers
By Andy Vuong
December 9, 2010
Qwest is in discussions with
The Denver-based telecommunications company wants the video-franchising process to be handled at the state level. Currently, Qwest and others have to pursue franchise agreements with individual municipalities before they can introduce a new video offering.
"We've started talking with legislators — especially given the new members that we have up there — about video franchising and what could be done to facilitate competitive entry in the cable business," said Qwest state president Chuck Ward.
Ward said a bill has not been drafted. But the measure would probably include a provision that exempts new video entries from having to offer service to every home in a given municipality, a requirement placed on incumbent cable-TV providers such as Comcast.
"The model that we have always advocated is the same that was applied to the telephone market — new entrants aren't constrained by the same obligations (as the incumbent provider)," Ward said.
Network build-out requirements have long been the sticking point between local municipalities and Qwest.
"The concern we have is that this would allow Qwest to cherry-pick affluent neighborhoods," said Comcast spokeswoman Cindy Parsons. "It could potentially leave lower-income and inner-city neighborhoods behind."
A statewide video-franchise bill pushed by Qwest in 2007 died in a House committee. Later that year, Ed Mueller was appointed as Qwest chief executive, and he killed the company's plans to launch a video service.
"We were representing an intent to offer a product, but we didn't have a product," Ward said.
Three years later, Qwest is in the process of merging with CenturyLink, which has video services in five markets and is looking to expand its offering.