Missoula County Enters Negotiations with TDS for Cable TV Franchise

Missoula County is in the process of approving a cable franchise with TDS Metrocom, a national provider of entertainment and Internet services.

The county approved the company’s application for a cable franchise last week, which now opens the door for final negotiations between the county and TDS.

“It’s for cable TV, although they also provide internet service,” county chief executive Chris Lounsbury said. “But the franchise has to do with the cable TV component of that.”

The Missoula City Council in November approved the end of the franchise agreement with TDS and cited the benefits of competition, primarily against Charter-Spectrum. If approved by the county, the deal with TDS would mark the first time Missoula has had two competing cable franchises operating in the same market.

Lounsbury said negotiations with TDS will result in a contract for the county brand. The county followed a similar method two years ago when approving the franchise agreement with Charter-Spectrum.

“It allows us to negotiate things like public access programming, brought in by MCAT, as well as using the public right-of-way to lay the cable to connect homes,” Lounsbury said. “After negotiations, a contract would be offered.”

TDS is looking to build an all-fiber optic cable system to provide cable television services in the metropolitan area. The estimated cost to build the system is about $3.5 million and will take two to four years, the company said.

With TDS in the market, competition with Charter-Spectrum could benefit consumer prices and service. It would also provide the county with a small source of revenue, Lounsbury said.

“I think the one we have generates between $75,000 and $100,000 a year,” Lounsbury said. “It can be used to offset property taxes. But the county has used funds in the past to fund technology in this meeting room, which allows us to have meetings streamed through MCAT.

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