Citing the benefits of competition and higher wages — and federal law — the Missoula City Council on Monday unanimously approved a cable franchise to TDS Metrocom, which will compete directly with Charter-Spectrum in the coming years.
TDS, which already provides service in Spokane and Billings, plans to invest up to $46 million to lay its fiber network in Missoula. It plans to provide high-speed Internet, television, entertainment and phone services, according to city officials.
It will likely take several years for the system to be fully deployed.
“TDS runs cable franchises in 12 other states. They have assets, and they basically are positioned to do this,” said council member Gwen Jones. “It’s reasonable to award it, but also I think it would be good to have some competition here in Missoula for our cable franchises.”
Earlier this month, while the franchise was being considered, City Attorney Jim Nugent said the TDS request marked the first time Missoula had ever had a competitive cable franchise enter the market.
Competition could benefit pricing, just as it has at Missoula Montana Airport on ticket fares. Multiple providers would also be forced to compete for customers, improving the services provided to residents who subscribe.
“I don’t think this should go before the council. I think competition should be widely welcomed without having to get the city’s approval,” said council member Sandra Vasecka. “Not only does competition bring costs down, increase wages and improve customer service, I think it’s a great thing to bring into the city.”