Comcast adds HD channels |

Comcast adds HD channels

Cable company’s franchise agreement with city up for renewal

Zach Fridell

— Some local television surfers might have spied seven new channels — including four in high definition — added to their Comcast cable lineup this month.

Four of the channels are high-definition versions of the major broadcast networks, and the others are weather, sports and Spanish-language channels.

Comcast spokeswoman Cindy Parsons said Steamboat Springs was "one of the last areas we had to upgrade to get these additional channels."

One channel that may be of local interest is NBC Universal Sports, a channel that focuses on "Olympic and lifestyle sports programming," according to its Web site. On Nov. 28 and 29, the channel will broadcast women's slalom events from the FIS Alpine World Cup in Aspen.

Parsons said the high-definition broadcast channels — KMGH's ABC, KUSA's NBC, KCNC's CBS and KDVR's FOX — are available to subscribers of Comcast's high-definition package.

NBC WeatherPlus and Universal Sports are available in the starter package, and Azteca America is in the Hispanic package of channels.

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In a separate action, the Steamboat Springs City Council is scheduled to hear a first reading of a renewal of Comcast's franchise agreement at tonight's meeting. Comcast pays the city 3 percent under the current agreement to use public right-of-way for aboveground and underground cables. In 2008, that netted the city $133,957.

In the agenda item from city staff, the City Council members are asked to decide whether the fee should increase from 3 percent to 4 or 5 percent. Five percent is the highest fee allowed by law. According to Comcast information, almost all other Colorado communities have the fees set at 5 percent. For a basic cable subscriber paying $53 per month, the 3 percent fee equates to $19 per year. If the fee were increased to 5 percent, that would be $32 per year per subscriber.

Raising the fee from 3 to 5 percent also would increase city income by nearly $90,000, based on 2008 revenue.

City Manager Jon Roberts said the city budget is balanced with a 3 percent franchise fee and that the extra money is not required but that there are also no rules governing when the fee should be increased.

"There's not really any kind of empirical decision for what the franchise fee should be," Roberts said. "It's purely a judgment issue."

The council also will determine whether to add a 50 cent per customer Public, Education and Government fee, something Roberts said he does not see a reason for because it's not clear what additional programming would be offered.

City staff has worked on updating the franchise agreement, first signed with TCI in 1981 and most recently updated with Comcast in 1997, for about 14 months.

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