With cable franchise negotiations between Carson City and local provider Charter Communications looming, the possible entrance of a competitor has evoked some anxiousness from Northern Nevada's sole cable company.
Linda Ritter said Friday that SBC Nevada has not yet approached the city seeking a cable television franchise agreement. A comment made by a Charter official at Thursday's board of supervisor's meeting was the first she'd heard of the possibility.
"They (SBC) do telephone and Internet here, but if they do branch out into cable TV, we don't know the ramifications of that," Ritter said.
Marsha Berkbigler, vice president of Charter's government relations for the western division, said she believes a competitor will come into Eagle Valley and when it does, recent changes Carson City has made to its cable TV ordinance will make it harder for them to compete.
"Our concern is that Carson City has passed restrictive language, language that, frankly, is in opposition to federal law and it'll be highly expensive for customers in Carson City; therefore, it makes us noncompetitive," she said.
Berkbigler said an amendment made Thursday in Carson City's public utility franchise ordinance will result in the collection of fees from non-cable TV service, such as Internet delivery. She said another ordinance amendment requires them to pay fees on programming that is not revenue for the company and to meet more stringent requirements for franchise renewal.
"We fear this will increase the cost to the customer," she said. "It could be as much as $3 to $4 a month increase for every customer."
The city manager said she was surprised by Charter's response to the ordinance amendments because many other areas have similar laws. Carson City used Reno's franchise ordinance as a model. Ritter said she doesn't believe any of the amendments will make business more difficult for Charter.
"We're going to comply with federal law when we sit down to negotiate with them," she said. "We will all come to an understanding of what the federal laws mean."
Vanessa Smith, SBC spokeswoman, said the company will most likely come into the Carson City area, but not this year.
SBC is working on a project to extend its new fiber-optics network closer to customers. Smith said this will increase the speed of Internet access. The fiber-optics have the capability of holding more information than copper wire and phone lines.
SBC plans to provide 18 million households in 13 states with super high-sped data, video and telephone in two to three years. The company has been building a new fiber-optics network in Reno since October 2004.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.