The Comcast-Time Warner merger would force Comcast out of the Twin Cities, at least in name.
In order to appease federal regulators Comcast is proposing to spin off 2.5 million customers covering 11 states (including Minnesota) into a new company called GreatLand Connections. GreatLand would be the fifth-largest cable company in the US, according to ArsTechnica. It would use Charter, which is also involved in the merger, to manage its operations, so don't hold your breath hoping for better customer service. See also: Comcast Is Terrible, Part 5,467
Yesterday the Minneapolis City Council gave initial approval to transfer the franchise agreement it has with Comcast to GreatLand, if the merger is approved. Right as the council's discussion began this happened:
Irony: Mpls. council live feed cuts out just as discussion begins on Comcast franchise changes http://t.co/Y6vPba7Tn4— Eric Roper (@StribRoper) January 26, 2015
The city did manage to squeeze a few extra perks from GreatLand:
- Over the next three years three of the city's nine public access channels will be converted to high-definition.
- City programming will be available on-demand like any other show.
- The city will receive more than $40,000 in franchise fee underpayments uncovered by an audit.
- Comcast has to pay all attorney's fees the city racked up negotiating the transfer.
- The city will get free cable installed in 30 city-owned buildings, which is valued at $50,000 annually.
City Council member Andrew Johnson said yesterday he remembers his rates getting jacked up last time Comcast pulled off one of these mergers, and asked if that was going to happen again.
The city's lawyer said they negotiated a rate guarantee stating GreatLand cannot raise prices as a result of the merger, but that's probably going to happen anyway:
"To say there will be no rate increases going forward would not be correct," said Mike Bradley with Bradley, Hagen and Gullikson. "I'm sure there will be rate increases going forward, just as they have over the last 30 years...but I think we've done the best we can under applicable law to protect the subscribers of the city."
The agreement between GreatLand and Minneapolis goes before the full city council on Friday. The federal government is expected to rule on the merger sometime in March.
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