Qwest praises FCC's video franchising order

[Denver Business Journal]

Qwest Communications International Inc. on Monday applauded an order from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would relax the restrictions local authorities can impose on cable franchising agreements.

"A streamlined franchising process would encourage companies like Qwest to quickly deploy video services and promote the end of the cable monopoly," Gary Lytle, senior vice president of federal relations for Qwest said in a statement.

But Arvada Mayor Ken Fellman said he believed the order would be challenged in court.

"I have big concerns about local control," Fellman said.

Fellman serves on the legislative committee of the Greater Metro Telecommunications Consortium, a board of local and government representatives who work together on telecommunications issues.

"The [FCC] went great lengths to explain why they have the legal authority to do this," Fellman said. "Clearly, they're overstepping their authority."

Earlier this year, Qwest pushed Colorado legislators for a law creating a statewide licensing process for video services, similar to streamlined franchising procedures in Texas, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, New Jersey, North Carolina and California.

The bill, which was rejected by the House Transportation and Energy Committee in February, would have removed municipal buildout requirements in many local cable franchise agreements that force newcomers to provide service to all areas served within a set time frame.

Opponents of the measure argued the bill would have allowed companies such as Qwest to "cherry-pick" affluent neighborhoods and give newcomers an unfair advantage that existing cable providers did not have.

Proponents of the legislation said the bill would benefit consumers by allowing more competitors to enter the market -- keeping the costs of basic cable rates lower.

Qwest currently provides fiber-to-home video service in very select parts of south suburban Denver and throughout Phoenix. However, Chuck Ward, state president of Qwest, said the service could be expanded if the buildout requirements were lifted.

Many customers in Qwest's 14-state region currently receive satellite TV service through a resale agreement with DirecTV.

article originally published at http://washington.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2007/03/05/daily11.html.

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