Amherst Media is main beneficiary of Comcast ten year contract
Even though the Comcast ten year cable license -- worth $6.3 million last year -- does not expire until October, 2016 the Cable Advisory Committee started off this morning's meeting somewhat in panic mode.
Co-Chair Kris Pacunas is worried a deadline or two in the complicated process could have been missed which would give Comcast added bargaining strength whenever they do finally sit down at the negotiation table.
At their initial mid-June meeting, their 1st since 2006, Peter Epstein, their $200/hour legal counsel, did say he wished to send Comcast an "initial contract offer" by November 1st. And as of this morning the Committee was miles away from having that contract prepared.
In fact their attorney has not even yet provided them with a contract template that contains all the boiler plate language that is standard with any cable contract. And the all important timeline is now out of date.
Attorney Epstein at 9/24 Ascertainment Hearing (and Comcast stenographer)
The Committee will be sending attorney Epstein a memo outlining their complaints about his performance to date and they will also be contacting the Select Board, who has final authority to sign the lucrative contract, as well.
He did attend one of the two required "Ascertainment Hearings" co-sponsored by the Cable Advisory Committee and Select Board but does not keep in close touch with the committee.
Mr. Epstein came highly recommended by Amherst Media who benefits by the 5% cut of Comcast revenues ($317,000 last year). That 5% amount is written in stone, and these days may not even be a slam dunk.
The main bargaining issue seems to be the one-time capital upgrade to equipment that comes once every ten years.
In the last 2006 contract that amounted to $450,000, and this time around Amherst Media is looking for many times over that for the ability to broadcast their 3 channels in high definition.
Left to rt: Adrienne Terrizzi, Kris Pacunas (Co-Chair), Joan Golowich, Demetria Shabazz (Co-Chair)
In addition, one Cable Advisory member of the five has showed up to only one meeting so far, and now that the heavy lifting has started Co-Chair Pakunas said he would contact him to find out if he will stay on the committee or not.
Next meeting the agenda calls for the Committee to have from attorney Epstein a new timeline with specific dates, a one page "summary of community needs" which includes the 5% cut of cable revenues, amount of one time capital needs money, maintain local customer service office, etc.
The Committee will also discuss having the Select Board file a complaint with Comcast over breach of the 2006 license which required all town buildings to be hard wired for live broadcast capability.
Over the years parts have been cannibalized from other locations like Jones Library, DPW, Police Station or High School in order to prioritize Town Hall and the Middle School (where Town Meeting takes place).
So not only do a majority of town buildings no longer have the ability to live broadcast, but even the two major buildings (Town Hall and the Middle School) where all the important meetings occur, the outdated equipment teeters on the brink of ruin.
Next meeting is scheduled for Monday November 30th. But before the Committee adjourned Co-Chair Pakunas told fellow members, "I feel better now."