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meetings they cover (Select Board, Town Meeting, Finance Committee, etc), but they are currently stuck using outdated copper wire analog technology.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