CenturyLink bringing cable TV to Papillion

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Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 12:00 am

CenturyLink entered into an agreement last week signaling plans to enter the cable television market in Papillion in the next three years.

The Papillion City Council approved a cable franchise agreement April 2 with CenturyLink, allowing the telecommunications company to offer cable television – not just satellite television – within Papillion’s city limits.

The agreement requires CenturyLink to launch a cable service in Papillion by April 2, 2016, or face a $300 per day penalty. The company also could lose its right to offer cable television service if it failed to meet cable system build-out requirements outlined in the agreement.

CenturyLink spokesman Karl Bieber said he could not comment on any of the company’s future plans, but said the telecommunications provider does appreciate the City of Papillion’s decision to approve the agreement.

“We’re very appreciative of the council’s support,” Bieber said. “We will be making an announcement in the future when we’re ready.”

Cox Communications had the only cable franchise in Papillion, giving it a monopoly on the local market. DirecTV, a satellite television company, offers service in Papillion but is not subject to the same regulations as wire-based television providers.

A staff report prepared for the Papillion City Council states CenturyLink will be the second cable company in the city. The franchise will be up for renewal in 2019, which is also when Cox’s franchise will be up for renewal by the council.

Papillion will charge CenturyLink a 5 percent franchise fee on the television provider’s gross revenues, the maximum rate allowed by state statute. The cable system would launch with CenturyLink’s existing infrastructure.

Initially, CenturyLink promises to provide cable television service to at least 25 percent of homes and businesses in Papillion within three years. Once 27.5 percent of households and businesses subscribe to new service, the company agrees to offer connections to as many homes and businesses as possible.

At that point, the company also begins to expand service by an additional 15 percent of homes and businesses in the city each two years, according to the agreement. That expansion will continue until CenturyLink is capable of providing cable service to every home and business in Papillion.

The company, which had already signed the agreement before the Papillion City Council approved it, has committed to offering at least 100 channels.

The City of Springfield has also approved a cable franchise agreement with CenturyLink. The City Council voted 3-0 to approve an agreement on Jan. 15.

A representative from the company told the Springfield council Nov. 6, 2012, that CenturyLink was interested in bringing cable television to Springfield, according to meeting minutes.

The Springfield franchise is valid for 15 years and requires a 3 percent franchise fee to be paid to the city. The agreement does not mandate service be brought within any specified timeframe.

Sarpy County has also approved a franchise agreement valid for 10 years that requires a 5 percent franchise fee, but does not include a build-out mandate. The County Board approved the agreement on Dec. 4 as part of its consent agenda.

Both Bellevue and La Vista are anticipating bringing agreements with CenturyLink to their respective city councils in the coming weeks.

“We’re working with them and our attorneys on that,” Bellevue spokesman Phil Davidson said. “I think we’re getting close, but it’s definitely not done yet.”

A similar sentiment is coming out of La Vista City Hall.

“The franchise agreement with CenturyLink is being negotiated,” La Vista spokesman Mitch Beaumont said. “It will be on a future council agenda.”

With another cable company entering the local market, Papillion residents stand to benefit with improvements to the city’s community channel.

Darren Carlson, the city’s community relations coordinators, oversees Papio Vision, the city-owned TV channel carried on Cox Channel 18.

The channel – which grew out of a now-defunct government channel created by Cox for the cities of Papillion, La Vista and Ralston – broadcasts community information and replays of public meetings.

Carlson said CenturyLink has agreed to pay $15,000 to support the public, educational and governmental access channel, since Cox paid to launch the channel. He said he has earmarked the one-time payment for a new field camera and an editing computer, which he said are two generations behind the current equipment used by professional television stations.

The city does not charge a fee for Papio Vision, unlike many jurisdictions including Omaha that require cable subscribers to charge customers a line item on their bills for PEG channel content.

Papillion reserved the right to begin charging such a fee and to launch up to two more PEG channels provided Cox also launches such channels, according to the agreement. Springfield, which does not offer a PEG channel, also reserved the right to launch such a channel and requires CenturyLink to provide the Omaha PEG channels to its customers as part of their service.

Taxpayers in Papillion and unincorporated Sarpy County would also see another benefit from the agreement: free cable television service provided to public buildings.

CenturyLink agreed to provide complimentary service to all public facilities in Papillion that can be connected to its service. Buildings designated for free cable access include City Hall, fire stations, police stations, Sump Memorial Library, PEG channel access facilities, city and county operations buildings and all accredited public and private schools.int

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