Friday, September 16, 2016

Cable Contract Conundrum

Amherst Select Board will accept or deny multi-million deal on September 26

The standoff between the town and Comcast for the right to provide 7,000 Amherst residents with more TV channels than they can possibly use escalated a notch on Monday night with new Town Manager Paul Bockelman reporting to the Select Board that Comcast's "final offer" for a ten year contract renewal had gotten a tad better.

The Cable Advisory Committee and Temporary Town Manager Peter Hochenbleikner had negotiated an offer from Comcast that increased the one time capital payment from $450,000 ten years ago to $950,000 now and an additional $10,000 per year in iNet maintenance in years 4 through ten ($70K) paid to the town.

Or a total offer of of just over one million with $950K available for Amherst Media.

The asking price from the CAC -- with much input from our local cable access provider Amherst Media -- was for a one time payment of $2.2 million.  Therein lies the battle.

But now the counter offer to avoid a denial of license renewal and expensive time consuming appeal hearing process has escalated to $1.125 million and $25,000 per year years 4 through ten on iNet maintenance.

Or a total offer of $950K for Amherst Media (because now the $175K in iNet maintenance is included in the $1.125 million)

Either way the one time capital payment comes out of the pockets of the 7,000 subscribers.

But the Select Board still fell short of accepting the deal and put off that final decision until their September 26th meeting, which is the final chance to approve/deny the renewal which expires October 15th.

In the meantime they asked the Cable Advisory Committee for their opinion on the counteroffer so that Town Manager Paul Bockelman can decide whether to return to the negotiation table or not.

 CAC and Amherst Media (and a Gazette reporter) this morning

This morning the Cable Advisory Committee voted unanimously to ask the Town Manager to seek $1.6625 million in one time capital -- although that includes the $175K paid over seven years for iNet maintenance -- an increase of $500,000 and the guarantee that three PEG channels (Amherst Media) be brought up to HD status.

At the very end of the three hour meeting (scheduled for only two) Amherst Media Director Jim Lescault distributed correspondence that indicated how arduous those closed door negotiation sessions were with charges of homophobia against the town hired attorney by Comcast's negotiator and his physical bullying of ACA Chair Dee Shabazz.


Anonymous said...

What if there were a meeting in Amherst and no one was butt-hurt afterward? Would it have occurred?

Anonymous said...

Sad to see the greed at Amherst Media. Larry you covered today's meeting live with a cell phone today!!! Well over twice as much as last time isn't enough in an era when anyone can broadcast on the web easily and free. Too bad we couldn't fund Police or Fire at 2x!!! And enough with the HD meeting cable channels!! It's HD when viewing online through the Amherst Media website, no one cares about watching live meetings anymore on their cable box, this way of thinking is 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

3:23, if you can magically turn video produced by SD cameras into HD you have a real money-maker on your hands!

And you would be surprised how many people watch on cable. I was on a board for a while, and had comments all the time from people watching on TV. There are a lot of older folks that will never watch a video on a computer but want to know what the town government is up to.

That said, I agree that Amherst Media is being greedy and trying to squeeze money out of Comcast subscribers for its own self-interest.

P.S. Standard definition Vince is plenty for me; I don't need to see his nose-pores.

Anonymous said...

I don't want my cable bill to go up for the junk they produce.

Anonymous said...

1: If an attorney has a "conflict of interest" because of his close personal relationship with another involved party, be the other involved party be of male, female, or indeterminate gender, is perfectly legitimate.

@; This "physical bullying of ACA Chair Dee Shabazz" is unmitigated bullshit. It's an anti-male attitude pandemic at umASS, where merely disagreeing with a woman (on anything) constitutes a threat to rape her. Only women are permitted to disagree with women, men are expected to whatever a woman says, no matter how stupid and/or factually wrong it may be.

So much for equality and the belief that women are the intellectual equal of men.

Personally, I'd have a great deal of respect for Comcast if they simply said Screw Amherst" -- that (a) they weren't interested in renewing the contract, (b) nor in transferring their equipment to anyone else, and (c) they'd demand top dollar if the town attempted to acquire it via eminent domain.

In other words, because of the "hostile environment", they were writing off the 7000 subscribers and if someone else waned the franchise, they'd have to install all new wires, amplifiers & such.

Anonymous said...

Proposed contract:

Town of Amherst Fee:

1: 0n or before the 15th of each month, the designated Town employee will tell Comcast how much money the Town wishes to have collected the following month.

2: Comcast will collect it as the Town's agent:

2A: Comcast will divide the sum by the number of Amherst customers.
2B: This will be a clearly labeled separate line item on customers' bills.
2C: Comcast will forward the money collected to the Tow.

3: The town shall be responsible for all customer concerns & complaints regarding this fee.

4: The Town & Comcast will split (50/50) the cost of hiring a disinterested CPA to audit this fund annually.

Anonymous said...

perfectly legitimate to raise the conflict of interest.

Anonymous said...

Ed, we can alway tell and smell your special brand of crazy.

Anonymous said...

What exactly is wrong with Comcast saying "We really don't care" -- that Comcast is merely collecting a tax on behalf of the Town, and that Comcast really doesn't care what it is as long as Amherst is the one responsible for dealing with those upset about paying it.

Anonymous said...

Comcast doesn't want to price itself out of the market due to a small group of people raising the rates for all subscribers.

Anonymous said...

Seems odd that so much town effort is put into negotiating tv contacts when the services are available from many providers using other means with better service and lower costs and more options. This feels like the town negotiating horse and buggy pricing. But the town and people have endless money to give to this stuff as has been shown, so I guess negotiate away....or why even negotiate, just pay, like you do for everything else. Kids could watch cable and learn more than in school, so how about $21,000 per year for educational tv plus $600 for good shows.

Anonymous said...

Can't replace high speed Internet access as far as I know from another provider .I would love it if I could.

Anonymous said...

Why are the Amherst Media people having so much say. This contract is for all subscribers, most of which pay little to their amateur programs. I've deleted their channels from my remote.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Here's a secret, the more HD channels they add the worse the overall signal to the channels you actually watch.

Anonymous said...

Lol. Boorish is in the eye of the beholder.

Anonymous said...

If you think it's bad now, just imagine the cries of "sexist" that will fill the air if Hillary gets in... Ugh.