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Cable/Video

TDS Eyes Piece of Comcast's Turf

In a further blurring of boundaries between cable operators, TDS Telecom is reportedly preparing to invade Comcast's turf in Spokane, Wash.

TDS, a provider of video and broadband services via a mix of fiber-to-the-premises and hybrid fiber/coax networks, has filed a permit with local authorities to offer services in Spokane, an area serviced by incumbent MSO Comcast, according to The Spokesman-Review.

The paper noted that the city's franchise deal with Comcast is not exclusive, which opens the door for a TDS to move in and compete directly with the cable op. The Spokesman-Review noted that Comcast's franchise with the city expired in 2017, but the sides have extended it as they negotiate a new agreement.

Under its incursion plan, TDS reportedly wants to build an FTTP network in Spokane that delivers broadband and video services, including a commitment to maintaining six public access channels, including the city's CityCable5 network.

City leaders believe competition will lead to lower prices for area citizens. A vote on the proposed, ten-year franchise agreement, which closely mirrors Comcast's terms with Spokane, is set for December 9, the paper said.

Why this matters
In addition to bringing a new services option to Spokane, an approved franchise deal would bring more competition to Comcast and possibly put pressure on the cable operator to cut a new, long-term deal with the city.

TDS's possible overbuilding invasion in Spokane is also another example of a cable operator making a competitive move into an incumbent's territory as an opportunistic way to seek growth. Though TDS does have telco operations, it's also a traditional cable operator in some markets.

Of special note, TDS, which has been working with TiVo and other partners to deliver video services on its hybrid network setup, acquired BendBroadband, a cable operator serving central Oregon, in the fall of 2014 for about $261 million. TDS is also a member of ACA Connects, an organization that represents many of the nation's independent cable operators.

TDS's move into Spokane is also poised to give Comcast a dose of its own medicine. Over the past couple of years, Comcast has ruffled the feathers of some small, independent cable operators by pursuing franchise deals in adjacent areas already being served by an incumbent cable provider. That kind of activity used to be off-limits in the historically collegial cable industry, but now companies want to create bigger businesses, with more reach, and that means this sort of thing is increasingly the norm.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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