The Clark County Council unanimously approved extending its franchise agreement with Comcast on Tuesday following a public hearing. The current agreement expires June 30.
While the telecommunications giant offers more than just cable TV to its Clark County customers — such as broadband internet, phone and home security services — the franchise agreement applies to cable television services only.
Jim Demmon, video services manager for Vancouver’s City/County Cable TV office, said similar agreements would be available to other cable providers, if there were any.
“This is a non-exclusive franchise, meaning any other company could come and seek a franchise. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much interest since Century Link left the market,” Demmon told the council.
The agreement establishes the terms for Comcast’s operations, such as access to streets, easements and right-of-way areas to install and maintain equipment. It also sets performance standards as well as rules for public access channels. The agreement establishes the fees Comcast must pay to the county or Vancouver. For example, Vancouver’s contract requires that Comcast pay 5 percent of its gross revenues from cable TV operations in its area to the city.
The contract extension will give Comcast, the county and Vancouver more time to complete negotiations on a new 10-year contract. Demmon said negotiations with Comcast began in 2022 for separate agreements with the county and the city of Vancouver but those negotiations are still ongoing and will need more time to wrap up.
Contract extensions are not unusual, Demmon said, noting a six-month extension was granted during the last contract negotiations in 2012.
“We’ll continue to negotiate throughout the summer and early fall. In October, we hope to hold a work session with the telecommunications commission to discuss key provisions of the negotiated franchise. We’ll then hold work sessions in November with the city council and county council as well as other interested parties to gather feedback on the key provisions,” Demmon said.
From there, the parties will go back to the negotiating table and hammer out any final changes before bringing a final contract back before the county and Vancouver in May 2024.
Councilor Sue Marshall asked how the public had been engaged previously and suggested public outreach for this agreement begin as soon as possible.
Demmon said quite a bit of outreach was done in 2021 with mailers going to addresses in Vancouver and other parts of the county, along with focus group meetings and an internet study.
“We used that to base off the key aspects of what we negotiated in the cable franchise (agreement),” Demmon said.
To watch the full council meeting, go to https://clark.wa.gov/councilors/clark-county-council-meetings.