CenturyLink Fires Opening Salvo in Video Battle for Seattle

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August 19 —CenturyLink Communications, Inc. is riding its gigabit deployment in Seattle to launch PrismTV in parts of Seattle, competing with both incumbent cable operator Comcast and overbuilder Wave Broadband for pay TV customers. The August 18 announcement brings to 16 the number of cities with PrismTV available.

The Monroe-La.-based operator says it has built fiber into 22 Seattle neighborhoods since it launched its deployment last year, following a rule change that eliminated a requirement that residents be allowed to veto placement of the operator's large utility cabinets.

That rule was originally put in place after residents registered objections to CenturyLink's enclosures, which stand about five feet high. At least two enclosures, standing between sidewalks and the street, are currently required to house the equipment CenturyLink requires to deliver its highest-speed services.

In its announcement, CenturyLink acknowledged the City's rule change, saying, “We appreciate the City of Seattle's role in modernizing outdated regulations that allowed us to build our fiber optic network and bring new competitive choices to the market, first our gigabit service and now Prism TV.”

With the resident approval barrier to its fiber plans removed, CenturyLink applied for and was approved for a television franchise. That required some changes to the rules, as well, with the city lifting the requirement that pay TV providers serve essentially 100 percent of Seattle residents.

Available to More Than 100K Residents

CenturyLink says that its fiber broadband service is now available “to more than 100,000 homes and 5,500 business locations in the Seattle area.” . The announcement does not specify the number of those locations with access to the pay TV service, saying that “Prism TV is currently available to some residents and businesses in many Seattle neighborhoods, including West Seattle, Ballard, Beacon Hill, Central District, Capitol Hill, Mount Baker and Green Lake.” The total city population is approximately 650,000.

CenturyLink's website is not highlighting the gigabit service in its PrismTV bundles, with bundled prices featuring 10 Mbps service topping out at $105 per month before equipment charges for the company's wireless set top box and DVR or additional HD channels. Users looking for higher speeds need to enter their address to obtain pricing.

In markets where it faces gigabit competition from cable rivals, the company charges a fee of $80 per month for its gigabit service when bundled with video and/or voice services.

Competing with Comcast, Wave

CenturyLink competes with Comcast Corp. across much of Metro Seattle, with Wave Broadband also serving a number of areas in and around the city.

Comcast offers standard residential speeds of up to 300 Mbps to most city residents, with 500 Mbps and 2 Gbps service available on a limited basis. Comcast and the rest of the cable industry are preparing for the next generation of DOCSIS technology that will support gigabit speeds on most of their plant, but Comcast has just started testing that gear and it is not expected to be commercially deployed until early 2016.

Wave Broadband-owned CondoInternet provides shared gigabit services to a limited number of large condominium buildings in Seattle. Outside of the 80 or so buildings served by CondoInternet, Wave's data speeds in the Seattle market currently top out at 110 Mbps.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim McElgunn in Cherry Hill, NJ at tmcelgunn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bob Emeritz at bemeritz@bna.com