Friday, September 25, 2015

Ascertain This!

Final speaker Jim Lescault, Director of Amherst Media, addresses Amherst Select Board

The Amherst Select Board and Cable Advisory Committee hosted their first of two "Cable Ascertainment Hearings" last night with the second one scheduled for Wednesday September 30 at the Bangs Community Center at 11:30 AM.

The Select Board voted to adjourn their meeting after hearing an hour-and-a-half of testimony but they kept the public hearing on all things cable open until their October 5th routine Monday night meeting so citizens have plenty of time to provide them with written comments.

The ten-year contract with Comcast expires in October, 2016 and Federal law requires two public hearings as part of the Request For Proposals targeted to Comcast.  Rates and programming are off the table as is anything related to Internet or phone service.

Cable Advisory Chair Kris Pacunas:  These public hearings are "The most important tool for our committee."  

A couple dozen citizens showed up, many of them associated with Amherst Media to champion our local cable assess entity that operates channels 12,15, and 17 -- aka, the local government beat.

Amherst School Committee member Vira Douangmay:  "Amherst Media is important for our Democracy.  People freak out when School Committee meeting are not televised."

Amherst Media is funded by a 5% cut of Comcast's overall Amherst revenues ($6.5 million) from its 7,000 subscribers, which came to $317,000 last year.

And once every 10 years a "technology upgrade" capital expense for new equipment, which came to $450,000 ten years ago.

But more than a majority of the audience came to complain about various service issues with Comcast -- either billing, quality of product or just overall customer service.

Wendy Jones Boisseau:  I own a house on Pulpit Hill Road that's hard to rent because Comcast wanted $8,000 to install cable/internet service.

Staff liaison and town I.T. Director Sean Hannon said the Comcast fiber optic access is "very valuable," but the equipment used by Amherst Media is "very old and should be replaced."

The Cable Advisory Committee will come up with a ten year contract proposal that must first be approved by the Town Manager and then final approval rests with the Amherst Select Board.

Of course if you the customer don't like the final contract, the alternatives are pretty slim.  All the more reason to make your voice heard NOW.


Anonymous said...

Why can't rates be discussed? - In Amherst, we pay more than other Western, MA towns for Basic Cable Service. Why is this?

Walter Graff said...

I'll let you in on the secret of cable billing. First, you all pay the same after it's all said and done. Comcast has a known a strategy of selling the same product at different prices to different groups of consumers based on the maximum they are willing to pay. It' s not based on town or region as much as charging individual customer segments differently through product differentiation and bundling. They have no requirement to explain this to anyone. And they legally do it. Watch your mail, TV and other ads and see all the different bundling packages that in the end, end up being you paying far more and maybe more than your neighbor. All legal.

Who hasn't seen their "limited" promotion "deals" which are nothing more than rates well below the profit maximizing price, which they then very knowingly continue to raise until you complain or threaten to cancel. That is the only time will they offer another promotion or a small discount to keep you on board. Here's the secret - it's up to you the individual subscriber to call and complain or you won't get a reduction. PERIOD!!! Most all customers like you simply bitch and moan and do nothing so you and the others who give up trying to keep your rates from climbing or who never contest the price hikes will simply watch things rise and scratch your head. And there you have the little known secret of cable gouging, all legal and mostly relying on you bitching but never complaining to them directly.

Anonymous said...

Meetings about which monopoly to support.

And Walter thinks it is a secret that things are worth what people are willing to pay....shhhh I am sure,they can fix this with more meetings....push the free market back down for the benefit od the mandated monopoly.

Walter Graff said...

No, I don't think that at all. I think people are stupid to think a company out to make a profit doesn't. What folks don't like is that they do it every day. Cable started when no one in a town in Pennsylvania could get TV so put an antenna on a mountain and gave everyone a cable connection. It's grown to be a 'utility' that people can't seem to do without. If you don't like it cancel or call and get a rate reduction.

Anonymous said...

It's not easy being green.