Cable TV subscribers in south Washington County could have an alternative to Comcast as early as February.

CenturyLink has reached a tentative franchise agreement with the South Washington County Telecommunications Commission to provide Prism TV, a cable-style subscription service, to select homes in Cottage Grove, Woodbury, Newport, St. Paul Park and Grey Cloud Island Township. The cities all have representation on the commission.

Prism TV is controlled by a wireless set top box that eliminates the need for a cable connection.

In an email, CenturyLink spokesperson Stephanie Meisse confirmed that the company is ready to go head-to-head with Comcast, the sole local cable provider.

“We now await the hearing and final vote,” she wrote, referring to a public hearing on the proposed contract and a decision by the commission in January.

Once that happens, things should happen pretty quickly.

“Typically, we can begin selling the service about two weeks after the franchise approval,” Meisse said.

The commission is expected to approve the deal at its regular meeting in January, executive director Fran Hemmesch said.

“We’ve got a deal all worked out,” she said.

It should add revenue for the cable commission, Hemmesch said, since CenturyLink will pay the same standard franchise fee - 5 percent of gross revenue from local subscribers - as Comcast. She couldn’t say how much that might be, however, since there will be some churn as some customers leave Comcast to sign up with CenturyLink.

Mike Bradley, a partner at Bradley Hagen & Gullikson in Woodbury, helped to negotiate the agreement between CenturyLink and the cable commission. He has also facilitated CenturyLink franchises for the city of Minneapolis and other municipalities in the Twin Cities.

“It’s been reviewed by the city administrators of all the member cities,” Bradley said.

Comcast customers in south Washington County won’t be affected by the deal, he said.

“Nothing changes with that relationship,” Bradley said. “That’s a relationship that this commission appreciates.”

The Louisiana-based CenturyLink designed Prism TV to compete directly with Comcast’s Xfinity TV as well as other cable, satellite and Internet delivery systems. To be eligible, homes must have an Internet speed of at least 25 megabytes per second. Prism TV is a form of IPTV, or Internet Protocol Television. The Prism TV video signal is delivered from a local central office to homes using fiber cable or a mix of fiber and copper.

“This isn’t the commission choosing winners or losers,” Bradley said. “It’s about allowing competition.”

Cottage Grove City Council and cable commission member Dave Thiede said he favors giving local subscribers a second choice.

“Unless something really weird comes up I’m pretty much in favor of letting CenturyLink come in,” he said.

Residents can find out if their homes are eliigible by visiting www.centurylink.com/prismtv.

Customers who are not eligible for Prism TV service can subscribe to DirecTV through CenturyLink and save $5 per month for bundling the service with their home phone or high-speed Internet service.