Friday, October 19, 2001
Carlisle and AT&T Broadband renew cable license But no service upgrades for another 24 months
Only one day before Carlisle's cable license expired, the board of selectmen met at 8:00 a.m. on October 12 to sign a renewal license with AT&T Broadband, successfully concluding negotiations that had frustrated the cable communications advisory committee in the last few weeks. AT&T Broadband had reneged on the terms of the renewal presented to the selectmen on September 18 by committee chair Darice Wareham and member Paul Gill. At the selectmen's meeting on October 9, however, the cable company and the committee did reach agreement on key terms the license period and the amount of the performance bond and all that remained was for AT&T Broadband to resubmit the revised license renewal.
The new agreement provides for a five-year license with a town-wide upgrade within 24 months of October 14, 2001. Should the cable company complete the upgrade within 18 months (an unlikely scenario, according to AT&T Broadband management), the license term will automatically extend to ten years. A performance bond of $300,000 will be maintained by the company to ensure timely completion of the upgrade. The upgrade to a two-way 750 MHz cable communications system is essential before Carlisle's cable TV service can be improved and the long-awaited high-speed Internet access can be provided.
The license renewal also provides that the town will receive $25,000 to purchase and install video equipment in the Town Hall; $15,000 will be paid in 2006 for additional video production equipment. The license contains periodic reporting procedures by the cable company to the town and includes provisions by which the town may investigate consumer complaints brought before the company.
"We are pleased that the license renewal provides that every current subscriber will be upgraded to the new 750 MHz structure at no incremental cost," said Wareham, "and that the cable company will provide coverage to the entire town, not just selected areas." She pointed out that the committee had one overwhelming objective in the renewal processto complete a 750 MHz upgrade as soon as possible. Carlisle currently remains one of the few towns in the region with obsolete 450 MHz service.
"Unfortunately," she noted, "a small suburban town has relatively few competitive options for alternative systems and relatively limited leverage against the incumbent, two facts that we were constantly reminded of in the two-plus years we worked on the license renewal. In the end," she continued, "it was quite frustrating that a company the size of AT&T Broadband could not or would not find the financial resources to do the upgrade in a reasonable time framenamely, in 2002." The alternative of litigation with its financial and time burdens was not appealing to the town, although at least one other townShirley, Mass.has chosen that path.
Wareham summarized the license renewal by saying, "We do feel that this was a good outcome, given the inherent limitations of the situation." After the selectmen signed the license, Tim Hult thanked the cable committee for its long and often frustrating work and congratulated members on the successful conclusion of the renewal process.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito