St. Paul residents soon will have another choice for cable TV, after the City Council voted Thursday to grant a franchise to CenturyLink.
By a 6-0 vote, the council approved an ordinance that will give the city an alternative to Comcast, which has been St. Paul’s only cable provider for years.
The ordinance takes effect Dec. 19, and city officials said it shouldn’t be long before CenturyLink makes its Prism TV available to most St. Paul residents.
The Minneapolis City Council voted in May to allow CenturyLink to provide cable service there. As in Minneapolis, St. Paul’s agreement requires CenturyLink to provide service to at least 15 percent of the city within the next two years.
But estimates are that CenturyLink already has infrastructure ready in 60 percent to 70 percent of St. Paul.
CenturyLink also is providing competition to Comcast in metro-area suburbs. Seven west-suburban cities — including Edina, St. Louis Park and Bloomington — are moving toward approval of their own agreements. A week ago, St. Louis Park tentatively approved a five-year franchise agreement and is set to make the agreement final on Monday.
St. Paul City Council President Russ Stark said he believes CenturyLink is close to rolling out services for thousands of St. Paul customers, adding that competition in a market long dominated by Comcast should benefit residents.
“It gives people more options … and CenturyLink is expanding some of their other services as well,” he said.
Council Member Dave Thune, who was not present for the vote but supported granting the franchise, said CenturyLink’s entrance into the St. Paul cable market should almost immediately benefit customers with an increased range of services and lower prices overall.
“Competition is a good thing,” Thune said.
A call to a CenturyLink official regarding when and where service will first be available in St. Paul was not immediately returned Thursday. But the company’s vice president of operations for Minnesota said some customers would be able to receive Prism within weeks of their cities signing franchise agreements.
CenturyLink already has enabled more than 100,000 Twin Cities households to receive faster, 1-gigabit Internet service. Faster Internet service would enable more homes to use Prism, St. Paul officials said.