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Raymond Cable Franchise Agreement – What is it and what does it mean?
Submitted by Kevin Woods – RCTV Coordinator 2-18-14

On Monday, February 24th, 2014 beginning at 7:00 pm in Torrent Hall located in the Public Safety Complex, the Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing on the renewal of the Cable Franchise Agreement with Comcast.The draft of the agreement will appear on the town web site prior to the public hearing.

What is this agreement, what does it mean to Raymond residents, and how does it affect those who subscribe to Comcast's cable television services? While the Cable TV Committee has helped to draft the agreement, it is the Selectmen’s' responsibility to negotiate it and sign its final version.

The agreement (about 54 pages long) is primarily legal verbiage that gives Comcast rights to offer cable television services within the town. It is not an exclusive agreement. If another cable company wants to come into town they can. But they must follow the same rules as Comcast and install their own cabling infrastructure. It does NOT govern what Comcast charges for their services or what channels they offer. These items are determined under other federal laws and towns and cities cannot amend them. The agreemen covers things like how much of the town will be cabled, what density of homes must be in an area for it to be cabled, the rights to use public space, telephone poles, safety, liability, customer service etc.

There are four areas that are of particular interest to Raymond cable subscribers. The term of the agreement, the franchise fee, “franchise related costs”, and the provisions for public access.

1. Terms of the agreement – While the previous agreement established in 1997 and which expired in October of 2012 was for 15 years, this one is being set for five years. This will allow the town to re-negotiate sooner and allows for the rapid changes in cable television technologies.


2. Franchise fee – The current franchise fee is set at 2%. The Cable TV committee has recommended it remain at 2% along with a paragraph that allows the Selectmen (with proper public hearings) to raise or lower it (federal law only allows for a fee of up to 5%) The franchise fee is progressive which means that those that subscribe to more cable TV services pay a higher fee then those that only subscribe to basic cable. This gives the Cable Committee sufficient funds for the operation of RCTV and the flexibility in the event they need it.


3. “Franchise related costs” - At the beginning of the current agreement, Comcast provided the town with $50,000 for equipment purchases and renovations to the High School. They also charged the town $50,000 to provide the ability to originate programming from the Town office, the safety complex, and the three schools. While this was listed as “capital funding” in reality under federal law, the cable company has the right to pass that cost on to the subscriber with significant interest. The “franchise related fee” is charged interest and is flat; meaning that
everyone pays the same amount regardless of the cable TV services they purchase. Raymond subscribers have been paying that as a fee on their cable bill for the last 12 years. The Cable Committee has recommended that the new agreement contain NO capital funding which will remove the “franchise related cost” fee from subscriber’s bills. (in reality it has been gone since August).


4. Provisions for Public Access – Channels 13 & 12 will continue to exist in Raymond on the basic tier level. The Cable Committee has requested that a third channel be made available. In the event the School district offers more educational access programming, this channel would be made available to them.

A couple of side notes.


1. Unfortunately Comcast continued to collect the “franchise related costs” fee from subscribers beyond the end of the contract. Three months of that was returned to subscribers on their July or August bills. The remainder of the overcharge is being negotiated with Comcast and the Cable Committee has recommended to the Board of Selectmen that those overcharges be returned directly to subscribers.


2. When Comcast moved to digital programming the televisions in the three schools (and yours at home) could no longer receive cable TV. Comcast provided homeowners and the schools with 1 converter each. Sometime in late 2012 an administrative decision was made by the SAU to phase out the need for cable in the classroom due to the fact that the TV's were nearing end of life, and the Internet was enabling the teachers to get information without the need for Cable TV.

Residents (especially cable subscribers) are encouraged to let the Cable Committee and the Selectmen know how they feel about the Franchise agreement and any questions or concerns they have.

Again this agreement cannot determine what you pay for cable services or the channels you receive, but it can impact the town and how RCTV brings information to residents. Please feel free to contact me at 603-682-5348 or rctvnh@gmail.com.

 

To read the cable agreement click on Cable Franchise Renewal Agreement.