News Column

St. Paul extends Comcast deal until Dec. 31

July 24, 2014

By Frederick Melo, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.



July 24--The city of St. Paul will continue business as usual with Comcast through at least the end of the year.

The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday voted 5-0 to extend the existing cable franchise agreement held by Comcast until Dec. 31. The city, which first entered into the wide-ranging agreement with the company in July 1998, has been negotiating a new contract for roughly three years.

The contract was set to expire in July 2013 but has been extended twice prior to Wednesday's vote. The city's Franchise Renewal Committee indicated negotiations for a new 10-year agreement would not be resolved by the end of this month, the previous deadline.

The lengthy, non-exclusive contract determines everything from senior discounts to free cable access for public schools, libraries and government buildings. Comcast has shown little interest in upgrading the city's outdated Intranet system, which maintains Internet communications between municipal buildings, without considerable public investment.

The contract also sets the degree of funding for the St. Paul Neighborhood Network's six public access channels, another point of contention.

One person spoke against the extension during Wednesday's council meeting and one resident wrote a letter of opposition. Council members Kathy Lantry and Amy Brendmoen were absent from the public hearing.

"This is just an extension of the existing agreement," said Council Member Russ Stark, immediately prior to the council vote. "It doesn't preclude us from having other agreements. ... There are moving parts right now. We don't know where things are going to end up with Comcast's corporate structure."

In April, Comcast announced it would likely spin Minnesota customers off into a new cable company to reduce debt and appease federal regulators scrutinizing its proposed takeover of Time-Warner Cable.

By Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2172. Follow him at twitter.com/FrederickMelo.

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(c)2014 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)


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