Five member Cable Advisory Committee (new members on right)
The Cable Advisory Committee met yesterday following up on an energetic meeting the previous day with their attorney Peter Epstein to put final touches on the Comcast cable franchise renewal contract, a once-every-ten-year event.
Chair Dee Shabazz opened the meeting by thanking the entire committee for their hard work over the past year.
Interim Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner got involved from the very beginning of his temporary tenure and already appointed two new members to the committee, Al Sax and Sharon Vardatira, bringing the CAC to full strength.
The draft proposal will go out by March 15, maybe even as early as tomorrow. The CAC will be drafting a letter to the Select Board bringing them up to date with the process.
Currently the contract is worth just over $6 million annually to Comcast with 5% of that coming to the town and passed through to Amherst Media for annual operation expenses.
The major sticking point will be the one time $2.2 million capital improvement requests, much of it for Amherst Media.
Comcast will have 30 days to respond to the proposal and then the hard-ball negotiations really begin. CAC advisor Epstein suggested they appoint a smaller "negotiating team" to go head-to-head with Comcast who is expected to send two employees to the sessions.
But the all-volunteer Committee may attend those sessions at full strength to offset the advantage Comcast has of using employees who do nothing but beat up, err, negotiate with cities and towns nationwide.