Rock Hill residents and businesses soon could have more options when buying Internet, phone and cable TV service.
On Monday night, the Rock Hill City Council unanimously approved agreements that would allow three companies to install fiber-optic cables and attach other telecommunication equipment to Rock Hill utility poles.
Comporium Communications is the only other company with a similar use agreement with the city.
Under state law, cities cannot discriminate against companies seeking to use their utility poles or public right-of-way areas.
The three companies who sought agreements with Rock Hill are TW Telecom of South Carolina, Navacore and DukeNet Communications. Under the contracts, each will pay the city about $22 a year per pole that it uses and an annual fee for using right-of-way property.
Rock Hills agreement with Comporium is more mutual than those approved Monday, said Jimmy Bagley, deputy city manager.
Comporiums agreement with the city allows for certain joint uses, he said, because the company owns nearly 8,000 utility poles almost as many as the city does.
Its unclear whether the three new companies will be direct competition for Comporium, Bagley said, because the city has no idea what services each might offer.
Rock Hill and the companies attorneys spent years negotiating the agreements.
The agreements allowing for use of public right-of-way space require a second reading and approval by the City Council at a future meeting.
City officials do not expect any new costs associated with the three companies moving into the area, Bagley said.
Under state law, telecommunication companies are responsible for expenses related to their portion of utility poles or infrastructure in the public right of way.
For example, Bagley said, if Rock Hill decides to bury its utility lines, any company using their poles is obligated to pay a portion of the cost.
Whether the three companies even act on their new rights to install lines on city-owned poles will be something city officials and residents in Rock Hill will have to wait and see, Bagley said.
A representative from TW Telecom said his company is excited about extending its service to the Rock Hill area. Prior to 2008, the company was known as Time Warner Communications.
TW Telecom plans to serve commercial customers only, providing Internet, phone and data services in the city, said Bob Meldrum, vice president of corporate communications.
Already entrenched in the Charlotte market, TW Telecom has heard a demand from customers in Rock Hill for its service, Meldrum said.
Many of the companys existing customers in Charlotte have offices in Rock Hill, he said, and TW Telecom plans to provide extended connectivity through its new agreement with the city.
Meldrum would not disclose how many miles of lines the company plans to install or a date on which work might begin.
The company serves a range of industries, such as health care providers, law firms and manufacturing, he said.
Efforts to reach Navacore and DukeNet were unsuccessful on Monday.
Navacores website states that it provides dialup and dedicated Internet access in Rock Hill, Fort Mill and York. DukeNet is headquartered in Charlotte and jointly-owned by Duke Energy and Alinda Capital Partners.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068