Denver -- Tele-Communications Inc. and officials in Denver
have extended the MSO's franchise until year's end to give both sides time to negotiate a
Denver officials, who recently transferred TCI's franchise
to AT&T Corp, bowed to the company's argument that a deal could not be struck in time
to put the measure before the voters next May.
Instead, the two sides have agreed to negotiate a new
agreement by July 21, which would allow the proposal to be appear on the ballot next Nov.
Denver officials agreed to the extension after determining
that renewal talks had fallen behind schedule in recent weeks while the city council
debated whether a franchise transfer should include a provision requiring that AT&T
open the @Home Network to area Internet service providers.
The city finally agreed to transfer its 112,000 TCI
subscribers to AT&T, absent an equal access provisions.
"[But] We lost a considerable amount of time during
the transfer matter," said Dean Smits, director of the Denver Office of
Telecommunications. "To place a franchise proposal on the May ballot would mean we
would have had to have the materials to the Denver Election Committee within 30 days. That
was an unreliable time line."
In exchange for the extension, TCI dropped its original
argument that a renewal proposal does not have to go before the voters, as would the grant
of a new franchise.
Issues to be resolved during the on-going talks include
plans for an upgrade of the local network, support for public, educational and government
access (PEG) programming, and the city's desire for an institutional network connecting
Denver with other communities along Colorado's Front Range.
"The company and the city agreed that because of the
complexity of the issue it was important to give the process time," said TCI
spokesman Matt Fleury. "Our future in Denver is important to us, and we want to make
sure we strike a deal that's acceptable to both sides."
Meanwhile, the city council has passed a resolution urging
the Federal Communications Commission to monitor "market conditions and insure the
promotion of investment and innovation in broadband development to the benefit of all
The FCC recently voted 5-0 to approve the $48 billion
merger between AT&T and TCI, but without the equal access provisions being pushed by
ISPs like America Online.
"I think it's our way of communicating to the FCC that
this is something that we plan on monitoring going forward, and that we endorse the action
that they've taken," Smits said.