CenturyLink wants to bring cable and faster internet to Bellingham

Residents here could soon have another option for cable TV as CenturyLink has applied for a cable agreement with Bellingham.

The company already offers internet service in parts of the city, and now also hopes to start expanding fiber-optic cables to offer faster internet speeds and its cable programming, known as Prism, which also transmits via fiber.

“It has a wireless set top box, so you can take your TV, wireless set top box, and you can go outside and watch the Mariners game with your friends,” said Sue Anderson, vice president of operations for CenturyLink. “You don’t have to be connected to the wire in your home.”

The box also responds faster than other services when doing things like changing the channel, Anderson said.

CenturyLink applied for a cable franchise agreement with the city in June, and will continue to negotiate the terms over coming months.

It’s not clear how long that could take, but when the city negotiated its most recent franchise agreement with Comcast Xfinity, the process took more than a year, said Marty Mulholland, director of the city’s IT Services Department.

“You have to work out just how long the franchise will be in existence, what the expectations of the city are for CenturyLink, any fees associated with it,” and public, educational and government access channels, Anderson said. “It’s really the nuts and bolts of what the expectations are of the city.”

The Federal Communications Commission allows cities to charge franchise fees in exchange for cable companies getting to run their lines on public property. The company can then pass that fee on to its customers.

The company will likely start putting in fiber where existing utility poles are most accessible, Anderson said.

“You have to start somewhere – usually we deploy our facilities initially where there are aerial facilities, where you see telephone poles,” Anderson said. “We’ll go as quickly as we can.”

In addition to offering faster internet speeds as the fiber network is expanded, Anderson said the cable agreement will likely be good for customers.

“It’s always a great opportunity when you can bring choice to the market,” Anderson said. “We often see competitive pricing that takes place, and that’s always a great benefit for consumers as well.”

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil