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City Council OKs negotiations with TDS, a cable provider that plans to compete with Comcast in Spokane

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 10, 2019

The city will negotiate an agreement with a new cable provider in Spokane, potentially offering residents an alternative to Comcast for their binge-watching and high-speed downloading needs.

The Spokane City Council unanimously approved a resolution on Monday affirming that Wisconsin-based TDS Telecommunications has the technical ability and financial resources necessary to provide cable service in Spokane.

It’s the first in a two-step approval process required before TDS can enter the Spokane market. Now, the city will look to finalize a 10-year contract with the cable provider.

If approved, the agreement would result in TDS pouring tens of millions of dollars into an all-fiber network for television and internet services direct to homes and businesses.

Though it is currently the only option for cable subscribers, Comcast does not have an exclusive franchise with the city.

Councilman Breean Beggs, who has spearheaded an effort to increase access to high-speed internet service in Spokane, said Monday that TDS has entered into competitive markets elsewhere and offered improved internet speeds at lower costs.

Although it has yet to be formally introduced for City Council approval, city officials have roughly outlined a potential agreement with TDS. It’s expected to be a 10-year contract, throughout which TDS would pay a 5% tax on gross revenue and a 6% utility tax.

Though it will be building out its own network from scratch, the cable provider would pledge to make its services available to at least 70% of Spokane customers.

The franchise agreement likely will be voted on by the council in February.

TDS would offer cable customers more than 120 channels, including local public access stations. The company also would offer internet service, but per federal regulations, the city’s franchise agreement would apply only to cable.

The city’s franchise agreement with Comcast expired in 2017, but it has been extended as negotiations for a renewal are ongoing. City officials signaled that the agreement with Comcast would largely mirror the terms of any deal struck with TDS.

TDS Telecom is a subsidiary of Telephone and Data Systems Inc., a Chicago-based company that also owns U.S. Cellular, a cellular service provider.

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