Mpls. blesses Comcast merger, gets some free cable

Comcast acquired Time Warner in February 2014. (Matt Rourke / AP)

Thirty Minneapolis city buildings will get free basic cable for the next seven years as part of a package of concessions the city wrung out of Comcast in exchange for blessing its proposed merger with fellow cable giant Time Warner.

The free service and equipment is valued at about $50,000.

Comcast has also agreed to pay Minneapolis $40,000 in overdue franchise fees after an audit found it underpaid the city for its use of the public right of way over the last three years.

Minneapolis cable customers will see a small increase on their bills as a result of the agreement, which goes before the city council next week. It raises the fees the company collects from subscribers by 36 cents a month to support public access programming on channels 14, 79 and the Minneapolis Telecommunications Network, which will share an extra $250,000 a year as a result.

 

Comcast needs the city’s permission to transfer its franchise agreement to a spin off called GreatLand Connections. The move is part of an effort to alleviate anti-trust concerns and increase the chances of federal approval for the merger.

Comcast has offered to transfer 2.5 million customers in the Midwest and Southeast to GreatLand if the merger goes through. Greatland would be operated independently, but Comcast and Time Warner would own 67 percent of the company.

Minneapolis isn’t the only city to drive a hard bargain over the proposed merger. The Lexington, Ky., city council voted to oppose the merger last fall because leaders said Time Warner refused to address complaints from customers there. Both companies are infamous for their poor customer service.

The concessions Minneapolis won are relatively small compared to the $4.5 million it will get from Comcast this year in fees. But if you’ve ever tried to get a refund from the company, you know it probably wasn’t easy.

  • Greg

    Umm… this seems wrong. Free cable in exchange for a blessing of a merger? Also, unpaid franchise fees being repaid then each customer pays $0.36 more per month for public access? What a joke. Another reason why Comcast sucks.

  • Abby

    wow, if only the article told us more, such as whatever happened to low cost ISP for Mpls residents?

  • indolent83

    So, free basic cable for city buildings. Comcast agrees to pay 40k that they already owe. Mpls residents get a $.36 bill increase.

    That’s a real hard bargain the city is driving. There’s no bargaining involved. How is that phrase even included in this article? Is it written by comcast pr people?

    What a joke.

  • Brian

    So all they got is some free cable for some city buildings?

    Nice negotiating.

    LOL

    As a result tons of Minnesotans will be losing their jobs as Comast won’t need a call enter here any more.

  • Gary F

    Great! Now Minneapolis can get crappy service just like St Paul does!. Does that mean that St Paul Mayor Coleman’s brother is in charge of the Minneapolis side too?

  • hendem

    Wow Minneapolis is like a cheap prostitute.

  • indolent83

    This didn’t even register to me the first time I read the article. They’re transferring 2.5 million customers to alleviate anti trust concerns, but then they turn around and offer this company’s services for free for 7 years. Tells you who is really still in control.

    I’m curious, who will actually own the other 33 percent of Grealand?

  • Kai

    How does spinning off 2.5 million consumers into a “separate company” that Comcast Time Warner own 67% of alleviate any concerns at all?

    • TheCastro

      Shell game

  • Jon

    So basically Comcast has promised to raise rates and pay money that they already owed the city… How much money have you received from Comcast for this article Curtis?

  • JulezRulez

    Fluffy puffy excuse for news Mr. Gilbert. Not so much news as tattling on Minneapolis.