A Louisville Metro Council committee Wednesday unanimously approved the extension of the city’s contract with Insight Cable.
Technically called a franchise agreement, the contract regulates Insight’s operations in ways not already controlled by the state or federal government. For instance, the document cannot control how much Insight charges customers or how much it must pay to use existing utility poles, but it can control who pays to put cables on those poles.
Insight attorney Larry Zielke says the franchise agreement mandates that the costs to extend cable to less populous areas must be shared by Insight and homeowners, though the city often helps residents pay such costs.
“There may be a group of a subdivision that comes to their Metro Council member and says ‘We want to get Insight into our neighborhood because they provide such good service.’ The Metro Council member has discretionary funds to have that happen,” he says.
In the past, council members have provided money to help extend lines in their districts. Zielke says if that happens, the city usually retains control of the infrastructure.
“If it’s a private easement, the private easement might specify that it only has one use—let’s say for multi-channel video programming,” he says. “If it’s a public easement, if the city buys an easement for example, then any utility can use it.”
Just four members of the public addressed the committee on Insight’s agreement and three of the speakers work for the cable provider. But the council members provided harsher comments as they questioned the company’s rates and programming options. When asked afterward if the agreement gives Insight a monopoly over cable in the city, Zielke said no; other cable providers may operate under separate franchise agreements. That may not be likely, though, since companies must pay to put their cable lines on existing utility poles.
“There are pole attachment agreements that we have with the utilities, and indeed the Kentucky Public Service Commission regulates how much pole attachment charge either LG&E or AT&T can charge us,” he says.
The agreement also requires Insight to include Metro TV on the basic cable package. The agreement will go before the full council next week for a final vote. The agreement lasts for 15 years.