NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 5, 2014

Selectmen sign new contract for cable channel

SEABROOK — The days of poor reception on the town’s cable channel are numbered, with upgrades coming in the not too distant future, now that selectmen have signed a new contract with Comcast.

Those who watch town meetings on their cable access channel can look forward to not only better quality sound and a crisper picture, but also watching meetings on their computers or tablets. There will also be a new channel just for local schools. The details have been hammered into the contract from Comcast. Town officials have been waiting for this renewal contract since 2009, when the last contract expired.

Complaints have been numerous over the years as the town’s television broadcast studio’s equipment aged. Buzzing sounds, poor picture quality and sometimes the complete failure of the system caused many problems. The equipment the town is using is so old, it relies on VHS-based technology.

The Cable Committee years ago came up with many of the recommendations that are included in the new legal document. According to selectmen, when they hired Bill Manzi to become the new town manager, he was told one of their priorities was for him to hold Comcast’s feet to the fire to get a contract that included the committee’s recommendations.

What makes a lot of the improvements possible is Comcast’s agreeing to raise the franchise fee from 1.5 percent to 3 percent, with all of that money going back to the town. The increase will mean about $54,000 a year to the town for technology uses, or more than $250,000 over the next five years.

Franchise fees are charged on monthly statements by Comcast, with part or all of the fee returned to the communities the company serves. In the past, a 1.5 percent franchise fee was charged, with all of the money going into the town’s scholarship fund for local students.

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