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New CATV deal may yield $s

Complex federal regulations and ever-changing market conditions mean the city should hire a consultant to negotiate its next cable television franchise, the city council has learned.

Sequim's 20-year cable

television franchise with Wave Broadband doesn't expire until 2012, but the company notified the city in June it will seek renewal of the franchise.

Under federal law, the city has six months to begin negotiations.

City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the proposed consultant is Craig Knutson, former city attorney for Port Angeles who negotiated that city's last cable television franchise.

The city's last cable television franchise agreement ran for 20 years, waived the business and occupation tax, and charged the minimal franchise fee, Ritchie said.

Knutson helped negotiate the 15-year franchise agreement with Wave Broadband that was approved by the Port Angeles City Council in May 2002.

The 15-year term was subject to Wave building an institutional network connecting all public buildings, not just the city's, with fiber optic cable. It was completed in early 2004.

The company also was required to upgrade to a broadband cable infrastructure capable of providing expanded cable services and two-way cable modem services to all subscribers.

If the company hadn't met those requirements, its franchise would have been for five years.

The agreement also included the maximum franchise fee of 5 percent of subscriber receipts versus the minimum 1 percent in Sequim's current franchise.

Ritchie said the city can't wait because now that Wave Broadband has said it wants to negotiate; those talks must begin within six months, according to federal law.

At its Monday, Aug. 10, meeting, the council unanimously voted to hire Knutson.

Ritchie said he didn't know how much revenue the franchise might bring to the city.

Councilor Walt Schubert told staff to present what Port Angeles did during its negotiations and find out how much money it could bring to the city.

"Franchises represent revenue to the city and benefit to the citizens through public, educational and government channels; cable connections to public facilities; and universal service agreements," Interim City Manager Linda Herzog wrote in a memo to the council.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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