cable help pushed
Bill would bypass municipal franchise requirements
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Friday, January 12, 2007
State Rep. David Balmer said Thursday he will introduce
legislation that would allow Qwest to seek a statewide
Qwest currently has to seek franchise agreements with
individual municipalities before it can offer video service
to compete against cable companies such as Comcast. So far,
the Denver-based company has reached agreements with only a
few communities in Colorado.
Balmer, a Republican from Centennial, said the legislation
is aimed at increasing competition.
"Competition in the marketplace always results in lower
prices for consumers," Balmer said. "We saw competition
bring lower prices to the voice-telephone sector 10 years
ago, and now it's time to bring competition to the cable-TV
Balmer said he will introduce the bill "shortly" but has
until the end of the month to do so.
The key issue between Qwest and individual municipalities
has been network build-out requirements. City leaders want
Qwest to offer its video service to every home, a
requirement also placed on Comcast, the incumbent cable-TV
provider in the metro area. Qwest wants the freedom to pick
which neighborhoods it will offer its video service to.
The build-out requirement "is a barrier to competition,"
said Chuck Ward, Qwest's state president. He said Qwest
shouldn't have to build out to every home, because it is the
second entrant into the market.
Ward said Qwest's video service is available to roughly
30,000 homes in Douglas County, where it has a franchise
agreement, but the company has been able to win only 2,900
video customers from Comcast in five years.
"I can't assume I'm going to get all of Comcast's
customers," Ward said.
Comcast spokeswoman Cindy Parsons said Qwest is looking for
special treatment from policymakers.
"There is every opportunity for new entrants to enter the
market today under the existing rules without any special
franchising deals or special legislative loopholes," Parsons
Darryn Zuehlke, director of Denver's telecommunications
office, said the current process shouldn't be changed.
"Our negotiations with Qwest have actually been going
relatively well," Zuehlke said. "The local franchising
process is not broken and doesn't need to be fixed."
Zuehlke said the Denver City Council insists that Qwest
offer its service to every resident but is flexible on the
time frame in which that requirement is met.
Some states, including California, have already passed
statewide franchising legislation.
Other states in Qwest's 14-state service territory will also
likely see similar legislation this year, including Iowa,
Minnesota, Utah and Idaho, Ward said. In addition, Qwest's
Oregon president Judy Peppler has said a franchising bill
will be introduced there this year.
Staff writer Andy Vuong
can be reached at 303-954-1209 or