Denver -- U S West Communications' plan to offer cable
service at an abandoned Air Force base here has put it on a collision course with city
The Baby Bell last week asked the Lowry Economic
Redevelopment Authority, which is overseeing the redevelopment of Lowry Air Force Base,
for permission to offer telecommunications services to the community of more than 3,000
homes and apartments.
That package of services would include a cable offering
similar to the one that the company is currently marketing to some 17,000 subscribers in
However, USWC's request ran afoul of a recent opinion
issued by Denver city attorney Daniel Muse, who said the company would have to obtain a
franchise from the city before it could operate in the public rights-of-way at Lowry.
Moreover, such a franchise would have to be approved by
Denver voters, Muse wrote.
"If anybody wants to provide cable service, they need
to go through the franchising process, pure and simple," said Dean Smits, director of
the Denver Office of Telecommunications.
The telco's plans suffered a setback in November, when
Denver voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have granted the City Council the
right to issue a franchise without having to conduct a referendum.
Meanwhile, Tele-Communications Inc., Denver's
incumbent cable provider, is also expected to oppose allowing USWC to only offer service
in one of the city's most affluent areas, while TCI is required to serve the entire
city under its franchise.
"We would assume that the same would apply to U S
West," said Margaret Lejuste, director of government and regulatory affairs for TCI
of Colorado. "As long as we operate on a level playing field, we're confident in
our ability to compete."
USWC spokesman David Beigie said the request to the LERA is
only "the first step" in seeking to offer service at Lowry. However, he declined
to speculate on whether the company would seek a franchise from the city.
"We'll see where we go from here," Beigie
said. "But the lawyers for U S West are of the opinion that the LERA has the power to
Beigie said the telco is pursuing a strategy of offering
cable service in "select" communities inside its 14-state region.
USWC currently offers cable service in Omaha, and it is
building a fiber optic, switched-digital network capable of serving 7,500 households at
the D C Ranch planned community in Scottsdale, Ariz.