Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cable Ascertainment Hearing: Repeat

Cable Advisory Committee members stand at beginning of meeting

The 2nd and final joint public meeting of the Amherst Select Board and Cable Advisory Committee to hear costumers concerns with Comcast service over the past ten years this morning was pretty much a rerun of the Ascertainment Hearing last week:  Amherst Media is amazing, but Comcast kind of stinks.

 Jones Library Director Sharon Sharry:  Would like to see all three libraries wired for broadcast

This time 19 people (vs a dozen last week) came to the microphone to present testimony, and not a one had anything good to say about Comcast.

Peggy Roberts, Town Meeting Coordinating Committee Chair:  "Amherst Media needs equipment replacement and extra staff support."

Amherst Cable Advisory member Demetria Shabazz led off the assault by pointing out Comcast is an $8 Billion company and rather than tie revenues only to the 7,000 cable TV customers it should include ALL profits including Internet and telephone.

Currently Comcast pays the town (who turns it over to Amherst Media) a little over $300,000 which represents 5% of the $6.5 million in revenues generated by 7,000 cable TV subscribers, but nothing from Internet or digital phone services.

Matthew Duranti, filmmaker:  "Amherst Media helped me get my voice out there as a young film producer"

Most of the speakers pointed out Amherst Media is critical to our democracy because of the governmental meetings they cover (Select Board, Town Meeting, Finance Committee, etc), but they are currently stuck using outdated copper wire analog technology.

Chris Riddle, member of the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee, said the lighting in the middle School auditorium is old analog theater lighting that leaves a lot to be desired for Town Meeting members trying to watch presentations and for the signal beamed to viewers at home.  He suggested Comcast upgrade the facility with new LED lighting and a digital sound system.

Louie Greenbaum:  "Town Meeting sound system at Middle School is a terrible, terrible system unworthy of Amherst"

Ten years ago at the start of the contract Comcast contributed a one-time "technology upgrade" grant of $450,000.  This time around, with the chorus of requests for fiber optic upgrade to the entire Amherst Media system, it sounds like the request will be a l-o-t higher.

Jim Lescault, Amherst Media Executive Director:  Last year we provided 504 hours of original content over our three channels 

At least one woman advocated for a switch in providers saying, "If I went to a doctor and they didn't have the equipment to make me better, why would I go back"?

But not a lot of other companies are going to wish to come to Amherst when they will have to wire the entire town to set up a new cable system.

So Comcast it is.  Only questions are will their customer service improve, and how much more money will they be willing to invest in Amherst Media?

Josh Stearns: Digital Journalism guru


Anonymous said...

Got conned by their salesman to switch to their new X-Finity cable box. Sound and picture have been badly out of synch and despite numerous repair visits, and it has gotten no better. Comcast quality (or lack there of) is an embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

Most every resident of Shutesbury would jump at the chance to buy Comcast services. Just sayin, we are spoiled here. Of course we chose not to live in the sticks.

Walter Graff said...

To quote Yogi Berra, "You're Fucked." As Larry points out, unless a cable company wants to come in and spend the money to rewire Amherst or buy the infrastructure from Comcast, as they say in the movies, fugget about it. That will not happen anyway as cable companies have their territories and at this point in the cable world, they are pretty much locked in stone. Verizon stopped installing FIOS infrastructure some years ago so that's out. Cable locked themselves in royally when the internet came to be. Now you just don't need just TV, but cable, and phone if you still have a land line and unless you package them all together for the "deal", you'd pay twice as much for just internet without cable. Catch 22 is you can't have cheaper TV form internet without cable cause you need the internet to watch the cheaper TV and they charge you out the ass for just internet. Some of us knew never to re-sign cell phone contracts and still enjoy 50MBPS internet from our phones WIFI'd through our homes and anywhere we are for the same price as the regular phone bill. Add DirecTV costs and it's a nice deal frankly that gives us far faster internet than most cable companies can. For the rest, there is no hope for change. PS - adding digital sound and LED lights to an "analog" set-up will not change anything to make it "better". Lights are lights and sound is sound to whoever made that suggestion. Frankly LED lights are harsher and many complain about them in public forums anyway. And while the broadcast end of what was made as community television (because of laws for public access), it still works, you can still watch community affairs (if there is anyone to man the equipment), and that is all Comcast needs to know.

As I said earlier, if you want a cheaper cable bill you have to negotiate. You can't negotiate for better service unfortunately, and with the recent merger, you will be paying more a few years from now.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Walter, I dozed off, what was that you were saying?

Anonymous said...

What surprises me is that there is no talk of a municipal option.