Friday, August 4, 2000
Cable modems could be here "sometime in 2001," says AT&T
Carlisle has been clamoring for high-speed Internet access for some time. In fact, Carlisle had the highest level of interest in high-speed Internet access of 39 towns surveyed by Cablevision, Carlisle's cable TV provider, according to Cablevision regional vice-president John Urban who promised, "Carlisle will not be overlooked." However, impatient residents will have to wait until next year for their no-wait, always-on cable modems.
This not-unexpected information emerged at a July 12 public hearing in the Town Hall on the transfer of control of Carlisle's cable TV franchise from Cablevision to AT&T/MediaOne. The public hearing, held by the Carlisle Communications Advisory Committee, focused on only four criteria to be considered in approval of the transfer: whether AT&T has the managerial expertise, technical expertise, financial capability, and legal ability to assume Cablevision's obligations under the terms of the present contract, renewable in October 2001.
Events leading up to a consideration of AT&T/Media One began in May 1999, when the two companies entered into a merger agreement. In April 2000, Cablevision and AT&T agreed to swap certain cable franchises. On June 15, the AT&T/MediaOne merger was concluded, setting the stage for an agreement in which Cablevision franchises in Massachusetts, including Carlisle, would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of AT&T. The transfer-of-control process is now underway, effectively requiring all licenses to be transferred before a deal can be closed. This could take until the end of this year, although company representatives expect the transfer to be accomplished sooner.
At the hearing, Urban represented Cablevision, director of government affairs Nick Leuci represented AT&T/MediaOne and Peter Flentov was moderator for the committee. A presentation by Leuci highlighting the history of AT&T and its many strengths seemed to satisfy committee members that the technology titan would, indeed, be capable of assuming Cablevision's obligations.
Rate increase likely
Flentov characterized the public hearing as "the beginning of a dialogue between us and AT&T/Media One leading to license renewal in October 2001" and opened the meeting to questions. Michael Fitzgerald, chair of the board of selectmen, expressed concern about the quality of cable TV service in town and the possibility of a rate hike as a result of the costly system upgrade required before broadband services could be delivered to Carlisle. Leuci promised to review Carlisle's services and to assess the town's needs, and after explaining the process whereby AT&T determines rate increases (generally at 5-6 percent per year), he conceded that an increase was likely.
A major concern of the committee has been the lack of a commitment by Cablevision to wire several Carlisle neighborhoods that have remained unwired since cable was introduced in town. Nor was a commitment forthcoming from AT&T. By mid-November, "we'll have a pretty good feel for what we can do and will report back," said Leuci. Both he and Urban appeared optimistic that all Carlisle neighborhoods would get wired since the return on the company's investment will be advantageous, thanks to increased services.
Pinpointing the timing of Carlisle's upgrade was also impossible, except that it will be "sometime in 2001." Leuci denied that Carlisle's low density is a factor in scheduling its upgrade. Contiguity is more important than the economics of density when scheduling crews to run new fiber from Carlisle's assigned headend, whose location is as yet undetermined.
An audience member, new resident Roy Herold, wondered whether all AT&T/MediaOne communities would have the same cable rate after build-out of the system. "No," replied Leuci. "They're relatively close but not identical. There are variations." Another resident, Pat Ludwig, asked about other cable providers coming into Carlisle. "The FCC favors competition," said Leuci, and Flentov pointed out that Carlisle has the opportunity to negotiate a contract should a second cable provider come forward.
A regional hearing
The public hearing was televised live by Cablevision, its premier live telecast originating in Carlisle. Residents have another opportunity to voice their concerns over the transfer of control to AT&T at a regional hearing at the Lincoln Town Hall on August 7 at 7 p.m.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito