Baltimore hires consultant to wriggle out of Comcast franchise agreement

The City of Baltimore expanded broadband service choices for local residents and businesses and has hired a consulting firm to, among other things, explore ways through and around a franchise agreement signed with Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) that runs through 2016.

The Baltimore City board of estimates has hired Magellan Partners, paying the firm $157,000 to develop a municipal broadband plan that expands the city's choices beyond Comcast and Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ).

Magellan is being hired primarily to study new potential uses for what's known as Baltimore's "fiber ring," a 30-mile optic cable network that supports the city's public safety broadcast system.

"I'm paying more here for lesser service, so I think one of the things we want to try to do is look at that, look at what [current companies] offer and try to incentivize people to offer more," Baltimore city Chief Information Officer Chris Tonjes told the Baltimore Business Journal. "In the short term, we're going to do a study. In the medium run, we're going to try to renegotiate the cable franchise agreement. In the longer run we want to make it more profitable for providers to come in here and offer the expanded service."

Baltimore was among a number of U.S. major cities that tried to enhance its competitive outlook in regard to Internet services by wooing Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG). That gambit was, of course, unsuccessful.

As the Business Journal explains, Comcast's agreement with Baltimore was signed in 2004, before the emergence of data-intensive online behaviors like streaming video. And as such, Comcast is not obligated to significantly upgrade its local broadband infrastructure.

For more:
- read this Baltimore Business Journal story

Related links:
Wheeler: no more bans on municipal broadband networks
Minnesota legislators serve up bill to ban community broadband
Muni broadband support flaring up again as digital divide widens

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