Minutes, Monday October 6, 2008

Minutes, Monday October 6, 2008

Postby Cable Committee » Sun Dec 07, 2008 12:41 pm

Meeting Minutes
Monday October 6, 2008 - Douglas Municipal Center
Prepared by Pat Aldrich
Members Present: Tom Devlin, Mitch Cohen, Bob Werme, Fred Fontaine, Carol Field, Rich Preston
Staff Present: Pat Aldrich – secretary, Arthur Griffin – Video Assistant
Audience: None
Guests: Tom Cohan (Director of Govt. Relations, Charter), and Greg Garabedian (Vice President General Manager Charter New England).

1.) Open by Tom Devlin @ 7:03pm
2.) Tom began by introducing the guests to the board. Just after the ten year mark on the license, the guests had been invited to answer questions about current issues within the town. Mitch Cohen reviewed and explained the problems some residents are having with Charter service.

1st Item: ORANGE ST. where the reference to “population density issues” by Charter cannot be found in the current license, nor by town council’s review.
Tom Cohan explained that there is a line extension formula the company uses to assess additional construction costs involved in installations that span over 250 feet from the “Cable Plant”, after which the cost of installation is pushed on to the customer. In this case, Mr. Cohan explained that there was a survey on the installation site and a letter has been sent to all of the residents in that area stating the cost of the construction to bring service to their homes, which can be split by interested parties.
Mitch Cohen explained that in the original negotiation of the license, “250 feet” was interpreted as “from the public way” not “from Cable Plant”. 250’ would define almost no homes in Douglas, as most homes have at least 200’ frontage. This has always been the Town’s understanding.
The conversation went back and forth, with Mitch explaining that the license with Greater Media, the previous name of the company, was to wire up the entire town. This issue resolution being presented is not adequate for this town.
Tom Cohan explained that he believes it is adequate, and that this same rule has been applied to every license he’d ever overseen. He explained that the Cable company is not subsidized like the telephone company so the additional costs need to be made up by the customer.
Tom Devlin stated that this was not the original intention of the town when signing the original license.
Fred asked the representatives if “Density” was in fact within the wording of the license.
Mitch brought up a letter from town council that states that the “Density Issues” are NOT worded within the current license.
Tom Cohan said that the 250’ from plant interpretation will stay as issued, and that the Density issue will be looked into.
Mitch asked for further clarification in this matter.

2nd Item: Pole Licensing is a recurring complaint among residents with new homes who are told they may have to wait up to 6 months for servicing because of licensing issues with utility poles.
Tom Cohan explained that licensing issues depend on who owns the pole in question. If Verizon owns the pole, Charter has a deal worked out where this would take no longer than 12 weeks unless there is “Make Ready” work to be done to the pole. If the pole is owned by National Grid, there is no deal worked out for a time limit. The license is then left to the discretion of National Grid on their timeline. Charter pays $520.00 per pole to install their plant. Make ready work can cost up to $5000.00 if needed. Make Ready work is when the current wire configuration of the pole may need to be re-arranged in order to install the cable plant. In these cases, construction timeline can be open ended to suit the company. Charter applies for license generally within 48 hours of a request from customer. After that, it is up to these other companies. Greg added that Charter will try to pre-apply for poles on new construction lots to get in front of the issue.
Tom Devlin asked how the process can be best navigated. Greg said for anyone who is building to let Charter know ASAP.

Tom explained that the reason these problems are so frusterating is that Charter has a lock on Douglas for high speed internet, so homes with businesses are having trouble getting linked up. Mitch explained that the committee would appreciated more info and clarification to attempt to speed up the process. Rich Preston brought up the fact that these issues not being resolved could in fact open the door for competition in town. Mitch spoke about the PEG channels only coming through Charter, and that is important to the town. Tom Cohan stated that 68% of the homes in Douglas were Charter customers. Discussion about FIOS coming close to Douglas, and Cable vs. telephone companies via the Telecommunications Act.

3rd Item: Conversion to Digital Television February 2009. Tom Cohan gave out information on the conversion and Greg explained that analog coaxial televisions would not be cut off immediately as Charter is committed until 2012. They assure us that they will not cut off analog coaxial until there is a viable solution in hand, possibly a low cost converter box. Only residents with antennas will need to change.
Mitch asked if PEG channels would go digital, Tom Cohan said if the Town wishes, otherwise, the signal will be sent analog, converted to digital, and then sent out. PEG channels can make the move towards HD if the town changes it to digital.

Tom Devlin said thanks and goodbye to the Charter reps and called a short recess.

Upon returning, Mitch stated that the meeting findings would need to be a major discussion item at the next meeting, mainly if the board wants to move forward by sending a letter to the Board of Selectmen to get involved with the licensing question, to find in fact if there is a breach of license in this matter.

Rich moved to end the meeting, Fred seconded and unanimous favor to end meeting at 8:32pm.
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