MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The town’s Cable Television Advisory Committee is coming down the home stretch of negotiating a new cable TV contract with Comcast, one of the town’s two cable providers, and returning a satellite office to town is one of the items it wants to be stipulated in the agreement.
Three members of the advisory panel, along with town attorney Joe Charbonneau, updated the Town Board at its Jan. 23 meeting on the ongoing negotiations.
“Every 10 years we have to renew our franchise agreements with our cable TV providers,” said the panel’s chairman, Frank Monaco. “In the town of Carmel, we have two providers: Verizon/Fios and Comcast. The Comcast agreement is due to expire in March. We have been meeting to discuss what we would like to see in the new franchise agreement.”
The original cable agreement was with the Susquehanna Cable Co., Charbonneau explained.
“You might remember them,” he told the board. “They were a predecessor to RCN, which was a predecessor to Comcast. “That [contract] was a 10-year agreement with a five-year option that was entered into by the town on March 9, 2004. So, now, for the first time in 15 years, we have the opportunity to revisit the franchise agreement.”
Monaco said his committee has, with public input, created a list of items to include in the new contract. No. 1, he said, is to get Comcast to reopen a customer-service satellite office somewhere in town.
“We want to make sure that Comcast maintains a presence in the town and even expand their presence [with a location] where residents can swap equipment out and pay bills and things like that,” he said. “It’s No. 1.”
Comcast once had an office in the hamlet of Carmel but closed it in 2014 and moved to Danbury. Supervisor Ken Schmitt said that he, too, would like to see the cable company open a small storefront, even if it’s only for two or three days a week. He asked the committee members if the town had any leverage in the negotiations to help secure that.
“We have more leverage than some other towns given our size, and the fact that there was once [an office] here in the town,” Charbonneau said. “We lost a little of that leverage back in 2014 when an amendment to this agreement was made [as the office moved to Danbury], but now we have leverage to the extent that this is a brand-new agreement. Everything is on the table.”
Monaco said the committee also wants to include a requirement that if a cable utility pole is damaged, Comcast must remove it.
“We want to make sure that when a pole is knocked down they move their [equipment] to a new pole and not leave the old pole there. That has been a problem in the past, so we are trying to get that included in the agreement,” he said.
The town also wants discounts for seniors and veterans, even for basic cable.
Additionally, the committee wants Comcast to upgrade its studio equipment and personnel, as well as the studio’s hours of operation.
“They have a studio to develop [public access] programming,” Monaco said. “It is all part of the benefits we get from having a franchise agreement.”
Charbonneau said he’s made additional modifications to the contract so the Town Board has an idea of where he and the committee are headed.
“Comcast will have that marked-up version of the agreement in a couple of days and then will get back to me with comments, acceptance or denial, which I will be able to bring back to the committee,”
Once the two parties are close to a final agreement, town officials want to hold a public information session to get more feedback from residents before signing off.
The town’s other cable company, Verizon/Fios, still has several years remaining on its contract before it’s up for renewal.