Longmont council to look at Comcast agreement Tuesday

LONGMONT – Longmont City Council on Tuesday night is scheduled to vote on first reading whether to approve a new cable television franchise agreement with Comcast that generates nearly $1 million per year annually for the city.

The new 10-year agreement contains a few differences from the current contract Longmont has with the cable provider, one being a requirement that Comcast provide a high-definition channel to carry the city’s Channel 8 programming.

Another change is the removal of the requirement that Comcast maintain a local business presence in the city. Comcast has a customer service office at 434 Kimbark St.

If approved Tuesday, the new agreement would move to a public hearing and second reading on May 6 for final approval.

The franchise agreement allows Comcast to use city rights of way to install and maintain its cable TV infrastructure. Comcast in turn pays the city a fee equal to 5 percent of the company’s gross cable TV revenue generated in the city, or roughly $820,000 per year. Comcast also pays the city a monthly public, educational and governmental, or PEG, fee of 75 cents per subscriber – about $140,000 per year for Longmont – to help fund equipment upgrades for Channel 8.

In addition to the new HD channel and the dropping of the local business presence requirement, other changes to the new agreement include the city dropping the requirement that Comcast provides free broadband Internet service to the Channel 8 facility. Longmont Power and Communications, which is building out a municipal fiber-optic network in the city, will provide that service going forward.

Denver attorney Ken Fellman is representing Longmont in the negotiations. Longmont’s agreement with Comcast is modeled off of an agreement Fellman developed for Denver and Aurora over the past year, as well as other metro area cities. Fellman told BizWest last month that there were no significant holdups in the Longmont negotiations.

Longmont voters in November granted the city permission to move forward with issuing bonds to raise up to $45 million for the purpose of building out the city-run fiber optic network. That network, scheduled for build-out by 2017, will offer residents and businesses in the city limits 1-gigabit download speeds, about 10 times faster and at about half the price of the fastest tier of service offered by Comcast in the city now.

Fellman, who couldn’t immediately be reached Monday, also told BizWest last month that the direct threat of competition to Comcast’s Internet service by the city had no bearing on how Comcast treated the city during the cable TV franchise negotiations.

“Nothing about the city’s unique position as a potential service provider impacted our negotiations there,” Fellman said.

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