Public hearing part two on Altice cable contract renewal
AMENIA — After setting the conversation in motion at its previous meeting on Thursday, July 2, the Town Board continued to solicit feedback on the town’s franchise renewal agreement with Altice USA at a continuation of its (virtual) public hearing on Thursday, July 16.
As reported at the last public hearing, the town first entered a franchise agreement in 2010 when the company Altice USA was previously known as Cablevision Systems Dutchess Corporation. The company agreed to provide cable service via a cable system within the town as part of the agreement. Before renewing its agreement with Altice, the board had to hold a public hearing on the matter.
The meeting was held via Zoom and live streamed to the town’s YouTube page, “AmeniaTV,” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to technical difficulties, the meeting began later than its original 7 p.m. start time.
After the hearing opened, John Dullaghan, the director of government affairs for Altice, gave an update on the customers who spoke on July 2. Regarding those who requested service, Dullaghan said he worked with Altice’s design and construction team and heard from seven customers wanting service, three of whom they could provide service for and four of whom the company has to conduct surveys with in order to provide service. He reported that they are now looking to have a sales representative reach out to each customer and to have the design team reach out to those who don’t have service.
Though he clarified that he didn’t want the expectation to be that they could “provide service tomorrow,” Dullaghan assured the board, “We will be moving forward to work with every one of these customers to have a solution to provide service.”
Dullaghan then gave an overview of the franchise agreement. He explained that it was born out of the Cable Act of 1984, which created a framework for agreements between cable operators and local government. As a result, he said all of the terms and conditions of the agreement are subject to federal and state regulation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Public Service Commission (PSC). Once the town and Altice comes to an agreement on terms, Dullaghan said the PSC will have to review and bless the agreement.
Essentially, Dullaghan said the franchise agreement between the town and Altice “gives us access to the right of way to construct, operate and maintain our network.” In exchange, he said Altice provides the town with a franchise fee; in this case, it’s 5% of gross revenues, which are collected from the town and admitted back to the town on a quarterly basis
After evaluating the highlights of Dullaghan’s report, the board opened the floor to public comment, but technical difficulties ensued as local residents tried to call into the meeting. In response, Town Clerk Dawn Marie Klingner supplied a phone number for residents to dial and invited the public to send their questions to her via email. Residents who dialed in were put on speaker to be heard by the rest of the board.
Altice USA representatives — Dullaghan and Altice consultant Roger Connor — addressed a question about whether Altice would need the town’s consent to transfer the franchise agreement, to which Dullaghan responded it would. There were also concerns about residents having “the privilege of signing up for basic cable service from Altice” and the differences between the town’s original agreement and the proposed renewal agreement in terms of Altice’s obligation to provide service.
The board encouraged all individuals who were unable to call into the meeting to send in their comments within the next 10 days. With three votes in favor of closing the public hearing and two votes against it, the board closed the hearing with a majority consensus.
For more on the Amenia Town Board’s July 2 public hearing on the Altice contract renewal, go to www.tricornernews.com.