Monday, February 8, 2016

A $2.2 Million Hearing

 Temporary Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner (center) hit the ground running with Cable Advisory Committee

Temporary Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner attended this afternoon's meeting of the Cable Advisory Committee, who is starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the pace of negotiations with current cable franchise holder and all around behemoth, Comcast.

The Town Manager had already spoken to CAC legal consultant Peter Epstein who "strongly recommended" yet another (3rd) public hearing be called by the Select Board to outline and defend the $2.2 million the Committee is requesting of Comcast for one time capital infrastructure improvements.

Ten years ago that amount was only $450,000, so pretty much everybody expects significant push back from Comcast.  Originally the CAC was going to put the capital amount and rational for the request in a memo to the Select Board.

The Town Manager told the Committee his first order of business was to get them two additional new members.  Currently only three members remain as two have recently resigned, so they all have to show up just to have a quorum.

After the Select Board calls the public hearing to defend the $2.2 million in capital, those arguments will be incorporated into the Request For Proposal and sent to Comcast, who will have one month to respond.

The contract also calls for the usual 5% of revenues to go to Amherst Media (around $300,000 last year).  The Select Board recently approved a request from Amherst Media to authorize a two year audit of Comcast to make sure they are getting their fair share.

The 10 year contract with Comcast expires in October, and if push comes to shove the town could simply let it expire and cable television would go dark.  Comcast is said to be not overly responsive to customer complaints, but a wailing of that magnitude will be hard to ignore.


Anonymous said...

It's not Comcast that will be hearing the complaints if it's allowed to expire.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight: Comcast would go dark right around the time of the next Red Sox World Series featuring the retiring Big Papi?

Dr. Ed said...

They could always unilaterally extend the franchise on a short term basis.

I'm also surprised that no one else is interested -- yes, there is the infrastructure costs, but if whomever Comcast was when they got it was willing to pay it, why not someone else? And it is going to cost Comcast a lot more to remove all their stuff than to abandon it, at which point it's abandoned property and the town has police powers....