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Qwest video mired again
Company claims city ordinances are overly restrictive
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Friday, June 22, 2007


Qwest said Thursday that it has hit another roadblock in its efforts to offer video services to compete against cable-television operators such as Comcast.

Some cities have passed emergency ordinances requiring companies that file for a cable franchise under new federal rules to divulge "extra materials and information, some of which we consider to be very proprietary and competitively sensitive," said Chuck Ward, Qwest's state president.

The information includes when and where a company plans to build out its video service.

"That's basically telling your competitors where they need to worry, so we're not going to do that," Ward said.

The emergency ordinance comes on the heels of a Federal Communications Commission order in March that allows Qwest and other companies to put local municipalities on a 90-day clock to review an application.

The order, which is under appeal, also sets limits on fees and other requirements local agencies can place on a company applying for a franchise agreement. The 90-day rule isn't expected to take effect until next month. The groups behind the appeal are seeking a stay on the 90-day rule pending appeal.

As cable companies expand their phone business, telecommunications companies are seeking franchise agreements with local municipalities to offer competing video services.

The emergency ordinance was drafted by the Greater Metro Telecommunications Consortium, a group of 31 local municipalities.

"It's another action on the part of the GMTC to make it more challenging for a competitor to try to get into the market and give consumers a choice," Ward said.

Darryn Zuehlke, president of the consortium, said the FCC's order requires "very limited data of what the applicant has to provide to a local franchise authority."

The ordinance is "something that could help (local agencies) if they are concerned about the FCC order," Zuehlke said.

As for Ward's concerns about divulging proprietary information, Zuehlke said local agencies can protect the information by deeming it confidential.

Zuehlke added that if Qwest doesn't file an application under the new rules, as the company has indicated to local agencies, then the ordinance wouldn't be a factor.

The local municipalities that have passed the ordinance are Glendale, Wheat Ridge, Northglenn and Brighton, said Qwest spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler.

Denver-based Qwest has struggled in its efforts to secure local video franchises. The company currently offers its own video service in a handful of cities or counties across its 14-state local phone service territory, including Douglas County.

Qwest backed a bill that was killed this year by a Colorado House committee that would have allowed the company to bypass local municipalities and seek a statewide video franchise. Qwest, however, successfully pushed a similar bill in Iowa, the first state in its territory to approve a statewide franchise.

Ward also said Thursday that Qwest has resumed talks on a video franchise with Colorado Springs.

"We are trading proposals," he said.

Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or avuong@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_6199208