Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content CenturyLink franchise approved by county commissioners

BOB STEPHENS Updated: July 3, 2012 at 12:00 am

Two down, two to go.

El Paso County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution for a cable television agreement with CenturyLink on Tuesday for unincorporated parts of the county. CenturyLink was previously awarded a cable franchise in Monument and is seeking franchises in Colorado Springs and Fountain.

CenturyLink officials have said they will only enter this market if approved by all four entities.

“I think the county commissioners recognize the benefits that competition brings,” said Jim Campbell, a CenturyLink regional vice-president.

“We’re not the end game, but we don’t want to be the roadblock,” said commissioner Peggy Littleton.

Comcast Communications is the primary cable television provider in the region. Falcon Broadband is another competitor.

Comcast has said that it is open to competition, as long as the franchise agreements create a level playing field. Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach has called for CenturyLink to make specific commitments about rolling out service to low-income areas in its franchise agreement with the city. CenturyLink officials say they plan to serve a range of income levels, but don’t want to commit to specific numbers.

CenturyLink already offers telephone and Internet service in the area.

“I think it’s good business to approve this and it increases competition,” said commissioner Darryl Glenn. “Some people don’t have service in parts of the county. This may encourage people to build further out.”

CenturyLink has promised the county its own station with 25 hours of free programming, whether that’s to air commissioner meetings or other information.

“That could’ve been very helpful during the (Waldo Canyon) fire,” Glenn said. “We would’ve been able to provide information about the fire and quick updates. People want constant information these days and that could be a way to provide it.”

Comcast has had discussions with the county about a similar arrangement.

“If there’s competition, you can’t get complacent,” said commissioner Sallie Clark. “This gives a choice to people. I like choices.”

Campbell expressed confidence that additional franchise agreements will be approved.

“We’re going to get the deal done with the city (of Colorado Springs),” Campbell said. “It’ll be a $20 million investment and provide 50 jobs initially, up to 100 eventually. That’s a significant investment for a second provider with no customers yet.”

The $20 million investment will be for fiber optics and other infrastructure.

Louisiana-based CenturyLink acquired Denver’s Qwest Communications in 2010 in a $22 billion deal.

Also Tuesday:

• The Board of County Commissioners hadn’t met since June 21, two days before the Waldo Canyon fire started. Each commissioner spoke about their experience with the fire and their interactions with affected citizens.

“I’ve been a member of this community for 40 years and never been more proud of how people rallied together,” Glenn said.

• Amy Folsom was unanimously approved as County Attorney, after serving more than three years as an assistant in the office. Former County Attorney Bill Louis entered private practice July 1.

“This is a tremendous responsibility,” said Folsom, 42, who was a prosecutor for nearly 14 years. “It’s a transition from litigation. I’ll be overseeing the other office attorneys and be more publicly visible. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Contact Bob Stephens: 636-0276 Twitter @bobgstephens

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