Shot Clock Runs in Colo.

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Telephone company Qwest Communications International has invoked the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called “shot clock,” which will compel the city of Arvada, Colo., to negotiate a franchise within 90 days or the telco could automatically be granted interim authority to enter the community.

It appears that Denver-based Qwest is the first competitive provider to avail itself of the FCC rule, which the agency announced last December but made official in March. Libby Beaty, executive director of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, said she has not heard from members of another community in which a competitive provider has sought a 90-day negotiation.

TALKS, NOT 'NEGOTIATIONS’

Arvada was served with documentation Aug. 6, said assistant to the city manager Clark Johnson. Informal, irregularly occurring talks between Qwest and the city have been taking place for over a year, according to Johnson, who hesitated to call them “negotiations.”

Arvada is currently served by US Cable, which is partially owned by Comcast.

At those meetings, city officials informed Qwest of their expectations, especially local regulators’ desire that the Baby Bell build any cable system in more than one or two neighborhoods, Johnson said.

System buildout terms for new providers have been an issue with regulators, from state legislatures to municipal officials. Also, the FCC rules allow for some buildout language. Johnson said Arvada is not demanding a full municipal buildout.

“We offered options” on plant placement and service areas, he said, adding, “They clearly disagree.”

The Arvada filing by Qwest indicates the telephone company intends to provide 175 channels of cable programming. Six of those would be set aside for public, educational and government access use, with a prohibition on municipal demands for any more channels than that. Financial support for those channels will be equivalent to amounts paid by the incumbent.

But the application indicates the telco would like to serve new housing developments only. The language in the application states that Qwest would not provide service in areas currently served by a cable incumbent. It would only move into those areas if the city revoked the incumbent’s franchise, according to the filing provided by Qwest.

Carolyn Tyler, Qwest’s regional media contact, said the company filed its application under the FCC’s 90-day rules because “Qwest looks forward to serving customers as soon as possible.”

Qwest attempted to ease its entry into the cable business with the passage of a bill in Colorado this year that would have moved authority for video franchising to state authorities. But the bill never made it out of committee.

Qwest has challenged a community quite familiar with current cable franchising regulations.

Arvada’s mayor, attorney Ken Fellman, is very active in NATOA, one of the governmental trade groups challenging the FCC 90-day policy, and one which has a suit pending in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

EYEING OTHER COMMUNITIES

Fellman is also the attorney for the Greater Metro Telecommunications Consortium, which serves Denver and its suburbs, negotiating with cable companies.

The Arvada application indicates nine other communities are considered for television deployment by Qwest, including Aurora, Broomfield, Castle Rock, Centennial, Colorado Springs, Denver, Littleton, Thornton and Jefferson County.

No other “shot clock” demands are anticipated at this time, according to the telco.

Should Arvada fail to act on Qwest’s request in 90 days, the FCC rules call for the telephone company to operate under “interim authority.”

If a final agreement still isn’t forthcoming, Qwest can take Arvada to court.

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