hears cable-TV deal calling
Metro-area model agreement likely to get OK in early 2006
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Thursday, December 8, 2005
Qwest Communications likely will gain approval early next
year on a model cable-TV franchise agreement for metro
Denver, paving the way for the telco to offer competitively
priced video services in additional metro communities later
in 2006. Qwest offers video services in parts of Highlands
Ranch and Lone Tree and has a number of other franchise
agreements in its 14-state local phone region, including
Phoenix, Omaha and Salt Lake City.
The possible stumbling block to the negotiations centers on
what build-out requirements Qwest may face. Qwest has said
there should be no provisions, while Comcast argues Qwest
should be forced to offer video services to every
neighborhood in a community as Comcast is required to do.
Qwest recently won a cable-TV franchise agreement in Salt
Lake City where build-out provisions kick in only if the
Denver telco gains a 51 percent market share.
"(Build-out) is the big issue," said Ken Fellman, attorney
for the Greater Metro Telecommunications Consortium, which
represents 32 metro governments and is negotiating the model
"We're working on it with Qwest and hoping we're going to
come to a resolution," Fellman said Wednesday. "Our
committee has a variety of opinions, but I think we've come
to a consensus that makes sense." He declined to elaborate.
"Without talking about substance (of the negotiations), I
think we're going to know by early February on whether we're
going to have a model agreement or not," Fellman added.
The consortium's board would have to vote on the committee's
Steve Davis, Qwest senior vice president of public policy,
said in an interview with the
Rocky Mountain News
editorial board Wednesday that he is optimistic that the
model franchise agreement will be successfully completed
While Qwest still would need to negotiate franchise deals
with individual cities, that could be little more than a
formality in municipalities that endorse the model
Davis said Denver is at the top of its list and an example
of where "we think cable-TV competition is long overdue."
He noted that while cable-TV prices continue to go up,
almost every other technology business is seeing price
"It just so happens that there's a cable monopoly, and there
may be a relationship," he said.
Comcast has argued that Qwest will "cherry pick," offering
video services only to affluent neighborhoods.
"Qwest wants special treatment, a competitive advantage,"
said Cindy Parsons, Comcast spokeswoman in Colorado. "Qwest
is lobbying for a loophole that will ultimately limit
competition because they won't be required to serve every
In contrast, Parsons noted that Comcast has undergone a
"universal upgrade" of video, voice and high-speed Internet
John McCormick, Qwest's assistant vice president of public
policy in Colorado, likened a build-out requirement to
Frontier and Southwest Airlines being required to fly the
same routes out of Denver International Airport as United
Davis noted that Qwest competitors aren't required to offer
telephone service throughout a community. And Internet
providers are unregulated.
Where cable-TV providers have been required to offer
services in every neighborhood, they soon have found
themselves in financial trouble because of the heavy
investment required, Davis said. He said predecessor U S
West ran into that problem in offering video services in
Phoenix in the mid-1990s and had to renegotiate its
But Davis said Qwest wants to offer video services as
broadly as possible, especially in dense areas such as
"Look at where we've offered DSL (high-speed Internet),"
Davis said. "You can't show any evidence that we've engaged
in red-lining or cherry-picking."
Davis said high-speed Internet services are available in
about 80 percent of the households in the metro area and
that Qwest's plan would be to upgrade that infrastructure
for video services.
Qwest Digital TV services
(Highlands Ranch): $39.99 a month for 155
channels (45 are music) plus some calling features
Comcast Digital TV services:
$52.94 a month (73 analog and 76 digital channels)