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July 15, 2014 - 10:30am

City to appoint new members to Cable TV Advisory Board as Time Warner and Comcast prepare to merge

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Cable Television Advisory Board.

With the pending acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast, the City of Batavia will have an opportunity to comment on the merger as well as renegotiate its franchise agreement for cable television service in the city.

Typically, municipalities enter into franchise agreements with cable providers that determine infrastructure specifications as well as some services the provider might offer along with fees the cable operator pays to the city.

Currently, the city gets $200,000 a year from Time Warner, but the franchise agreement expired a decade ago and has just been automatically renewed without revision by the state's Public Service Commission.

"Time Warner is noncompliant with some franchise benefits," the City Manager told the council Monday night. "We haven't had negotiations since 1993. There are a number of improvements that need to be made."

Comcast contacted the city and expressed an interest in working with the city on a new agreement and gave notice that the city has 120 days to comment to the FCC on the proposed merger.

Both providing comment to the FCC and negotiating a new franchise agreement are specialized, complicated legal issues and the city will likely need to retain the services of an attorney who is expert in the field, Molino said.

The city must also appoint members to the Cable Television Advisory Board, which has been dominant so long, the terms for all the previous members have expired. The city will be inviting residents to apply for seats on the board.

The cable franchise agreement covers terms such as access to cable service throughout the city, franchise fees, construction standards, indemnification and insurance requirements, underground facilities, installation of services, operation and maintenance.

Among the services a municipality can require a cable operator to provide what is known as PEG channels (public, education, government), something that Time Warner hasn't fully provided to Batavia.

A public access channel, for example, would allow local residents to make their own TV shows in the cable operator's local studio. Schools could broadcast plays.  Politicians and the politically minded could host talk shows. Local bands could air concerts. Churches could broadcast their services. Pastors could conduct Bible studies. Historians could provide lectures. The whacky and insane could find an audience, too, as long as it wasn't profane.

Councilman Eugene Jankowski raised the issue during Monday's discussion in response to a question from a constituent. Molino said the topic is certainly one the city -- and the cable advisory board -- could address with Comcast. It would be one more point of negotiation.

Mark Potwora
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Currently, the city gets $200,000 a year from Time Warner,....That franchise fee in all reality is coming out of the city of Batavia Time Warner customer. The city should see if by dropping this rate they would lower cable bills for all...

bud prevost
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Funniest thing I read all day...government and/or corporate fat cats giving anything back to the taxpayer. If anything, the city will probably demand more money, and timecast will seek rate increases, based on that. It's a vicious circle for those of us on the outside feeding these monsters.

tom hunt
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Bring in FIOS from Buffalo. Time Warner needs some cable competition or they will continue to rape and pillage their customer base.

Howard B. Owens
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"Bring in FIOS from Buffalo."

And how do you propose that happens?

Kyle Couchman
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Fios is already installed in west Batavia and in some neighborhoods. I know last fall they had contractors stringing Fiberoptic cabling on the poles on Swan St between Ellicott and Main.

As for lowering cable bills.... Hahahahahaha, you think if the city collected only half of that 200,000.00 that TW will lower anything? Thats pretty fantastical.

Mark Janofsky
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Verizon FIOS is dead. They announced quite some time ago that the network will not be expanded. Only existing contracts to install will be fulfilled. However, those communities with existing contracts, like Buffalo, are having a hard time getting the contact fulfilled.

Any fiber being installed is not for FIOS.

Mark Janofsky
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The City would be better off negotiating with Google Fiber. Austin TX recently entered an agreement with GF. The next day TW announced all existing customers' internet speed would be doubled at no extra cost! Hmmm...

Jeff Allen
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I agree with Mark's comment, FIOS is a dead issue. I pursued answers through Verizon and was told that the infrastructure costs to update our aging system out here (Oakfield in my case) was cost prohibitive.

Mark Potwora
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Bud my point was more about who really pays the fee......

Kyle Couchman
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Fios is already in Batavia NY. Therefore there must be a contract to finish it in place.

http://www.fiosfinder.com/availability/batavia-new-york.php

It's been here for at least a year or two. I see most dont know and it didn't put a dent in Time Warner's service so it really is a moot point. The Fiberoptics installed here on Swan St , were for Verizon as it was Verizon and their contractors here doing it.

Peter O'Brien
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When I go to verizon.com and enter my address (ellicott st in the city) I am not eligible for fios

david spaulding
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hey, what is the pay scale for an advisory board member? retirement benefits? I may be interested.... i'd love to get a tax free state pension.

Mark Janofsky
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@ Kyle. There are cable and telephone company fiber optic lines all over of the city. This doesn’t mean FIOS is or ever will be available. It’s been well documented on many major news outlets that the FIOS system will not be expanded. Verizon sees the future of cable TV as dead and will no longer invest in it. As I understand it, most of Verizon’s efforts are going into 4G & 5G LTE, because high speed cellular data is the most lucrative markets for them right now. BTW, “fiosfinder.com” is a non-Verizon site with bogus information.

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