WINCHESTER — City homes and businesses may soon have a choice of which company provides their cable TV, telephone and broadband internet services.
Edinburg-based Shenandoah Telecommunications Co. (Shentel) is seeking a 15-year, non-exclusive franchise agreement with City Council that would allow it to install fiber-optic cabling throughout Winchester.
“Our intention is to go head to head with Comcast in the city,” Shentel Vice President Chris Kyle told council at its work session on Tuesday.
Shentel already has some cabling and equipment in the city because it provides carrier service for Sprint cellphone customers. Kyle said a complete infrastructure buildout, which would require the installation of 110 miles of fiber-optic cable, should take less than five years.
“We want to move as fast as we can,” he said, noting that Shentel’s work would have to be coordinated with Winchester’s Public Services Department.
The driving force behind Shentel’s entry into Winchester’s cable TV arena is its desire to offer high-speed internet service to city homes and businesses.
“This is all about broadband,” said Kyle, who added that television and telephone services would be bundled into Shentel’s “Glow Fiber” package to make the venture financially feasible.
If the franchise is approved by City Council, it is expected that every address in Winchester would have access to Shentel’s services, as well as those currently offered by Comcast.
“Competition will hopefully benefit all our citizens,” Councilor John Willingham said.
According to documents submitted by Shentel, its cable TV package would include “a minimum of 80 channels of video programming.” Among those channels would be at least one station each for local educational and government services.
Free basic cable TV service would be provided to all of Winchester’s government, public safety and school facilities, as well as Handley Library and the four downtown autoparks.
Council is expected to vote on Shentel’s franchise request on July 23. If approved, Kyle said work to build the cable system throughout Winchester would begin in January.
Attending Tuesday night’s City Council work session 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, Bill Wiley and Judy McKiernan.