Charter re-up is nearly completeAfter more than a year of negotiations and discussions, Red Wing City Council is nearly ready to vote on a new franchise contract for Charter Communications.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
After more than a year of negotiations and discussions, Red Wing City Council is nearly ready to vote on a new franchise contract for Charter Communications.
“This has been going on for a while,” Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann acknowledged. “We’re pleased we have a final draft to submit to the council for a first reading.”
The ordinance renewing the franchise was introduced at Monday’s meeting, but still needs a second reading and vote from the council - planned for the Sept. 12 meeting. Charter also must give its approval.
Brian Grogan, an attorney who worked with the city on the negotiations, said the final contract ended up being “substantially similar” to Hiawatha Broadband Communications’ document.
“So no operator has a competitive advantage over the other,” Grogran said Monday.
The city granted HBC a cable franchise this spring, and the Winona-based company eventually will compete directly with Charter.
The franchise agreements will “allow Charter and HBC to compete in the marketplace” fairly, Grogan said. “And, as they say, may the best company prevail.”
The contract also includes a fee that can go toward materials such as cameras and microphones at City Hall and possibly setting up meeting rooms in the Red Wing Public Library for live feeds.
But the fee won’t take effect until about a year from now.
“Since HBC has no customers presently and is not collecting (the fee), they didn’t want to put themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” Grogan said.
Mayor Dennis Egan expressed concern that the contract didn’t address rural customers who don’t have access to services. There are requirements that the companies serve more densely populated areas, but that still leaves out the edges of town, Egan said.
Grogan said the competition between HBC and Charter could drive the companies to extend services.
Deadlines for the Charter franchise renewal have been extended a number of times, most recently in late June.
High turnover recently at Charter contributed to the delay, Council President Ralph Rauterkus and others said.
“It’s been a year of transition for Charter,” said Melissa Morris, vice president and general manager of the company, adding she believes there is now a “solid team” of employees in place.
On the city’s end, the negotiations committee comprised Rauterkus, Council member Lisa Bayley, Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann and Information Technology Director Laura Blair.
While the negotiations took longer than expected and hoped, the final terms were generally well received.
“I think we’ve arrived at a better product than we had before,” Bayley said.