CenturyLink cable franchise

A cable television franchise agreement is a legal agreement between the City and a cable television provider, and is required by state and federal law. The agreement details the terms and conditions under which CenturyLink may provide cable television services within the City.  

Cable Television Franchise Application 

  • Cable television franchise received - In June 2016, the City received an application from CenturyLink to provide its cable television service, known as Prism, within the Bellingham community. 
  • Council approved - August 7, 2017 - City staff and CenturyLink completed negotiations related to a cable television franchise agreement in June 2017.  The proposed franchise agreement was presented to the City Council for their consideration on Monday July 24, 2017 and was approved by the Council on August 7, 2017.  Presentations to the Council included staff overviews, interaction with CenturyLink representatives, and a Public Hearing.  The accompanying staff report describes relevant background information and facts, and highlights key terms of the proposed agreement. Term of the agreement will be 10 years beginning August 23, 2017.
  • Crews in the community - Community members may see CenturyLink crews working in the community to upgrade CenturyLink infrastructure.  CenturyLink crews will be wearing appropriate identification. 
  • Service availability - Community members interested in determining whether the Prism Cable TV service is available at a specific address should contact CenturyLink.  CenturyLink anticipates being able to provide Prism TV to 6200 addresses within Bellingham within a year of franchise acceptance.  


Why does the City get involved in cable television services? Because cable companies "rent" space on public property for their transmission lines. In exchange for this use of public property, federal law allows local governments to collect a fee from the company and to regulate limited aspects of cable service. A process outlined in federal law is used to establish cable franchise agreements, and community input about cable service is an important step in this process.

Franchise agreements typically are adopted for terms of 5-15 years.

Federal law limits local authority

In many communities, people ask the following questions:

Why can't we tell a cable operator which television programs to carry?
Cable operators have First Amendment protections so the City has very limited authority to regulate the type of cable channels carried or the content of cable television programming made available in Bellingham.

CenturyLink would be the second cable television provider in Bellingham.  Are there special rules or guidelines that apply to a second provider?
Yes.  The City has an existing cable television franchise with Comcast Cable, so CenturyLink would be a second provider.  The City will adhere to FCC guidance regarding enhanced cable competition promoting the federal goals of enhanced cable competition in communities. 

Why can't we regulate non-cable services?
The City does not have authority to regulate non-cable services (e.g., high-speed Internet access and telephone service) provided by providers. Federal law allows only for regulation of cable television services.

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