Windstream might enter Lexington cable TV market as competitor to Time Warner Cable

Lexington could be getting a second cable television provider.

The Urban County Council is expected to vote in coming weeks on a request for bids for a cable franchise agreement.

The city now has a 10-year franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable, a deal that was finalized in December 2014 after months of contentious negotiations between the cable giant and the city.

Under federal communication law, another cable provider can ask the city to reopen the franchise process. Windstream Communications recently requested that the city reopen the process.

Linda Ain, a lawyer who handles the city's utility franchise agreements, told the Urban County Council during a Tuesday work session that Windstream or any other potential cable operator must be able to provide the same services that Time Warner Cable provides to city residents. That includes providing cable access channels and complying with customer service provisions in Time Warner Cable's franchise agreement.

Time Warner Cable will keep its 10-year franchise.

Ain said if more than one cable operator applies and can demonstrate that it meets the standards, multiple cable franchises could be awarded.

Councilwoman Jennifer Mossotti questioned during Tuesday's meeting whether Windstream could provide the same level of service, given that Time Warner Cable — or its predecessor, Insight — has had the city's cable franchise for decades.

Federal communications law says a competitor does not have to offer cable to every home served by the current franchisee, Ain said. But potential competitor companies have to show that they are capable of building that infrastructure.

Ain said the city may not add additional requirements — such as increasing Internet speeds — to Windstream's franchise agreement if it is awarded.

The council will take a final vote on the request for bids for cable franchises in coming weeks. If approved by council, the bids for cable franchise agreements will be due sometime in mid- to late October.

Windstream provides land-line telephone service in Lexington and much of the rest of Kentucky, but the number of customers has declined as people switch to cellphones exclusively.

Windstream, like Time Warner Cable, also offers high-speed Internet service in Lexington. Windstream's current offerings include digital television in cooperation with Dish Network, a satellite service.

Time Warner Cable offers bundled packages with cable television, Internet and telephone service.