Less than a week after Minneapolis granted a second company the right to offer cable service in the city, a third provider has announced it wants to jump into the market.
US Internet, a Minnetonka-based Internet provider that's currently building a high-speed fiber optic network across the city, said Wednesday it plans to seek a cable franchise with the city. In a news conference at City Hall, co-founder and CEO Joe Caldwell said his company has already built out its networks over a far larger area than the city required of CenturyLink, the company that received a new cable franchise last week.
CenturyLink's agreement calls for the company to provide its Prism TV service to at least 15 percent of households within two years. Caldwell said US Internet has nearly universal wireless coverage in Minneapolis, and will be able to provide its fiber network to 30 percent of the city by the end of summer, among other offerings.
"We're well past the 15 percent mark," he said.
Caldwell said US Internet aims to help customers move past traditional cable and opt for streaming services. But he said the company is aware everyone isn't ready to make the jump -- and wants to help cover the transition with the kind of cable service customers currently get from companies like Comcast, formerly Minneapolis' sole provider.
"There is gong to be a bridge between people using cable where they're at today, and getting things like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and things like that in the future," he said. "We will support both initiatives."
CenturyLink's interest in getting into the local cable market prompted arguments from Comcast, which said it was unfair to allow new competitors to bypass state requirements that franchise holders provide their services to the entire city. Comcast's non-exclusive franchise deal, which expires in 2021, requires it to provide cable service to all Minneapolis households.
US Internet's announcement was attended by a handful of City Council members, including some who applauded the idea of additional competition moving into the city.
Council Member Andrew Johnson said last week's council vote to allow CenturyLink to move forward with a more limited build-out of its services opened the door for more competition.
"It only enables more vendors to meet that threshold and makes it easier for others to enter the marketplace," he said. "Today, less than a week later, we're seeing that with this announcement. And who knows, maybe we'll have a fourth or fifth party interested as well in providing cable service to our residents."
Above: Inside the server room at US Internet headquarters in Minnetonka. David Joles/Star Tribune