WINCHESTER — Comcast is about to have some direct competition in Winchester.
City Council on Tuesday approved a non-exclusive franchise for Edinburg-based Shenandoah Telecommunications Co. (Shentel) to install 110 miles of fiber-optic cabling throughout the city, a process expected to take less than five years.
Shentel will coordinate with the city's Public Works Department to put its network infrastructure in place, with a goal of offering cable TV, high-speed internet and telephone services to every home and business in Winchester.
“Our intention is to go head to head with Comcast in the city,” Shentel Vice President Chris Kyle said last month.
Shentel's franchise bid of $1,000 was opened and accepted Tuesday on a vote of 7-0. Councilor John Willingham abstained due to a potential conflict of interest, and Councilor Bill Wiley was absent.
Shentel offers internet service with speeds ranging from 5 megabits (Mbps, or 5 million bits) per second to 1 gigabit (Gbps, or 1 billion bits) per second. The online television service Netflix states that 5 Mbps per second is the bare minimum for streaming high-definition content, but as more internet-connected devices such as computers, tablets and cell phones tap into a home network, faster internet speeds are required.
Shentel has not announced any pricing for its upcoming Winchester services, but the company's current internet prices start at $45 a month for 5 Mbps and go up to $200 a month for 1 Gbps.
Comcast offers internet service with speeds ranging from 15 Mbps to 2 Gbps. Prices start at $50 a month for 15 Mbps and go up to $300 a month for 2 Gbps.
Shentel's agreement with Winchester states it will offer city subscribers “a minimum of 80 channels of video programming,” including at least one station each for local educational and government services. Its most basic TV package, which includes up to 20 TV stations, is $29 a month, while its top-tier package, which includes a total of 257 video, music and pay-per-view channels, is $96 a month.
Comcast TV packages start at $30 a month for about a dozen TV stations and go up to $85 a month for more than 260 video, music and pay-per-view channels.
Shentel's landline phone services range from $14 to $17 a month, and Comcast's cost $30 to $35.
Kyle said Shentel will offer a "triple play" package that bundles internet, TV and phone services at discounted rates. Current package prices vary based on internet speeds and the number of channels, and range from $91 a month to $277 a month.
Comcast's internet, TV and phone bundles in Winchester start at $80 a month and go as high as $150 a month.
Tuesday's vote came without any discussion from City Council, but when the proposal was first introduced on July 10, Councilor John Willingham said competition between Shentel and Comcast could benefit all Winchester homes and businesses.
Attending Tuesday night’s City Council meeting in Rouss City Hall were Mayor and council President David Smith, Vice Mayor John Hill, Vice President Evan Clark and councilors Kim Herbstritt, John Willingham, Les Veach, Corey Sullivan and Judy McKiernan. Councilor Bill Wiley was absent.