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Qwest revisits video franchising with lawmakers


By Andy Vuong
The Denver Post

December 9, 2010

Qwest is in discussions with Colorado lawmakers about a proposal that would ease some of the burdens tied to launching a new video service to compete against cable television, an effort that failed three years ago.

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.

Andy Vuong: 303-954-1209, or