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Rochester council considers second cable franchise

February 3, 2019

The next step toward welcoming a second cable franchise to Rochester could be taken Monday.

The Rochester City Council is set to hold a public hearing regarding proposed terms for Evansville, Ind.-based MetroNet to become a local cable provider.

According to information provided to the council, the proposal defines required operational capacity, calls for the city to receive 5 percent of annual gross revenues as a franchise fee and sets guidelines for service.

The length of the proposed agreement is five years, during which time MetroNet is expected to be capable of providing cable service to the base coverage area in Rochester, which is defined as serving at least 80 percent of all dwellings in the city.

Last year, Brian Grogan of the Moss and Barnett law office, which has helped guide the process of creating the new agreement, said the requirement should not be a concern due to past MetroNet practices.

“They are what we know in the industry as a competitive overbuilder,” he told the council in November. “They go into cities that already have an incumbent operator, they overbuild the system, and they do so with some interesting technology.”

MetroNet currently holds 20 cable franchises in three states — Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky — with an application filed for a statewide franchise in Iowa, according to MetroNet’s Sept. 19 application for a Rochester franchise.

The local application stated MetroNet plans to offer three tiers of cable service, with more than 227 video channels and 50 music channels, as well as on-demand services and specialty networks. Rates for the tiers are expected to range from $16.57 to $83.04, depending on the cost associated with including local broadcast networks.

While the MetroNet franchise being considered solely covers cable operations, the company also offers phone and broadband service in other communities.

MetroNet has indicated it will require a year of design and construction before offering the first service in Rochester. After that, the company states past experience shows a need for two years to expand service throughout the city, which is within the five years allowed under the proposed agreement and state statute.

On Monday, the council will receive an update on the process during its 3:30 p.m. informational meeting in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

Public testimony on the issue will be taken during the 7 p.m. regular council meeting on Monday in council chambers. The council has the opportunity to make a decision on the franchise following the hearing.

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