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Cable Story: Windom Cable Communications (Windom, MN)

Windom Cable Communications benefits local broadcasters by extending the reach of their signals, however, the station owners still force us to pay retransmission consent fees.  Located in Southwest Minnesota, 135-miles from Minneapolis / St. Paul, our customers cannot receive their local broadcast signals over the air.  So, we pay money to receive the broadcast stations via a satellite backhaul.  We then make it available on our system.   Instead of thanking us for increasing their audience size, the broadcasters make us pay a per subscriber fee for the right to carry their signal.  This is unfair.

Windom Cable, a municipal fiber-to-the-home operator located in the City of Windom, offers cable, broadband, and voice services.  We have offered cable service for 24 years, and we currently serve 1500 video customers.

In our carriage talks, the broadcasters and programmers take advantage of the fact that we're a small government run system operator.  They make take-it-or-leave-it offers, and coerce us into signing contracts with pages upon pages of complicated terms and conditions.  Our city doesn't have the money to hire outside attorneys to help us, so we're left with little option but to sign these contracts which lead to our customers paying higher rates, and we certainly do not make any money.

If we had more leverage in our carriage negotiations, we would create programming packages that better meet the needs of our customers.  We shouldn't be forced to make the "little old lady down the street" pay for the Big Ten Network.  She subscribes to cable because she just wants CBS, and you can't receive the public television stations over the air.  It's unfair that she's forced to purchase expensive sports programming, just to get broadcast stations that are supposed to be available for free.

In order to keep our video business afloat, we're taking revenue from our Internet and telephone business.  By doing this, we're delaying our capital upgrades for those services.  In the end, we may shutter our cable business, and let our customers go to satellite TV.  However, I suspect our customers would be disappointed with the customer service of DISH and DIRECTV because satellite doesn't respond to service calls within 30 minutes, like we do.

Dan Olsen. Director of Operations
Windom Cable Communications

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