TV negotiations approved

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- City commissioners have given the go-ahead for the city attorney to begin negotiating with a local telecommunications company to determine whether they should award them a franchise agreement to provide Internet, phone and television service in Albany.

L2Networks CEO Kraig Beahn pitched the idea to the commission during its work session Tuesday.

Beahn says that it's his company's plan to use Albany as a pilot program to tap into existing fiber optic lines laid by the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission and provide local residents with what he billed as unprecedented high-speed Internet access, phone service and television service.

"We want to demonstrate that you can bring a tier 2 or 1 level of technology and service to a tier 4 market," Beahn said.

After a law change in recent years, telecommunications companies now have the option of obtaining franchise agreements -- contracts that allow the companies to provide certain services -- through either the state of Georgia or through local municipalities.

Most of the commissioners seemed to be on board with the idea of having another business in town that could provide telecommunications services, but Mayor Willie Adams urged the commission to take deliberate action to ensure that what they were doing didn't break any legally binding contracts the city might have with Mediacom.

"The idea of competition is a good one, but I think we need to make sure that we aren't infringing on any other agreements," Adams said.

City Manager Alfred Lott told commissioners that he has dealt with at least two different franchises in previous cities and that in each scenario providing competition lowered prices and increased service.

"When you only have one company, the standard and quality is never questioned, but when another comes in, all of a sudden the quality and service goes up," Lott said.

Beahn said that details such as programing and price have yet to be determined but that he believes prices will be competitive with Mediacom.

The company, which already provides phone service to city of Albany offices and WG&L, says it will be able to provide residential Internet access on a 1 gigabit network, which would rival major metropolitan areas.

Beahn said that once regulatory hurdles from both the city and the state are cleared, the company could likely accept its first customer within six months. WG&L officials say that the fiber footprint extends out into the county, which means that if L2Networks officials wanted to, they would be in position to provide service in the unincorporated area of Dougherty County as well.