City of Missoula finalizes broadband, cable agreement with TDS
(Missoula Current) The city of Missoula on Monday gave final approval to a franchise agreement with a new broadband provider looking to establish a presence in the city's growing market.
The agreement reached with TDS Metrocom is good for 10 years and includes a 5% franchise fee for revenue earned by the company's local cable television.
Charter – the city's current – has been offered a similar agreement but has not yet agreed to the terms.
“Competition is wonderful for a capitalistic society,” said council member Sandra Vasecka.
The city adopted a franchise agreement for Charter back in 2003. It was supposed to run only 15 years and expired in 2018. The city approved a temporary extension in hopes of getting Charter to renew, but it's still waiting.
The city sent Charter a draft agreement to accomplish that renewal. During that time, TDS announced its plans to enter the Missoula market. TDS was given the same contract provided to Charter.
With TDS entering the market, Missoula will have competing service providers for the first time.
“Competition will be healthy here to get fair Internet rates,” said council member Daniel Carlino. “Long term, I see it as a goal to have fare-free public Internet for everybody.”
The agreement with TDS includes a $50,000 performance bond and two local channels available to Missoula Community Access Television to broadcast local content. The 5% franchise fee on cable television does not include broadband service.
The city's consultant said federal law prohibits the city from imposing a franchise fee on broadband revenue. He also remains hopeful that Charter will complete its agreement with the city.