Comcast, CenturyLink spar over Minneapolis cable service

Telecom giant Comcast is accusing competitor CenturyLink of trying to skirt state law in its bid to provide cable TV service in Minneapolis.

The law requires cable companies to provide service to an entire city within five years of winning a TV franchise. CenturyLink argues that the requirement has been preempted by the Federal Communications Commission, which found that such laws stifle competition.

In a public hearing on the matter Monday, CenturyLink lobbyist Jim Campbell accused Comcast of making "fraudulent" statements to maintain its monopoly.

"I understand Comcast's tactics," Campbell said. "They're going to throw enough grenades into this process to see what explodes, in the hope that they can impede or delay as long as possible our entry into the market."

In a letter to Minneapolis' ways and means committee, Comcast countered that CenturyLink has built cable networks that favor wealthier areas in other cities.

CenturyLink says at first it plans to offer cable service to about 30 percent of Minneapolis households, but it hasn't specified exactly where.

CenturyLink argues that information is a trade secret.

Comcast and its predecessors have had a monopoly on cable TV in Minneapolis since the 1980s. Centurylink, meanwhile, is relatively new to the cable TV business. It currently provides service in 14 markets around the country.

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