The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 30, 2010

Town seeks new cable contract, including mini studio

For more than a decade, the Cable Advisory Committee has been working to keep Carlisle’s cable and Internet coverage up to date, researching and writing contracts with a variety of cable and Internet providers on behalf of the town. Beginning with Cablevision and dial-up Internet, Carlisle has progressed to its present contract with Comcast to provide full high-definition cable television capability to residences and high-speed Internet with wireless capability. Community broadcasts are currently not high-definition, but CCTV is anxious to expand and work with Carlisle on more and better community broadcast capability.

The committee met on July 12 to discuss the latest proposed improvements to Carlisle’s cable and Internet coverage with Tim Kelly, the government representative from Comcast, and the committee’s legal advisor, attorney Bill Solomon. The new Comcast contract will be the first step in a more comprehensive plan that includes building a studio at the Carlisle School, a smaller version of the CCTV studio at CCHS, so that students and community members can access facilities to develop and produce cable shows here in town.

Currently, the Clark Room at Town Hall is the only location wired for cable broadcast. CCTV provides local access television services on cable channels 8, 9 and 10 (also called Public, Education and Government (PEG) channels).

Dual use for municipal fiber optic

The committee is hoping that a planned upgrade in municipal fiber optic wiring can be shared by both the town government’s Internet service and the local television services. A goal is to enable government meetings and other events to be broadcast live on local cable television at the school, Town Hall and Gleason Public Library.

May’s Town Meeting passed a Warrant Article providing $45,000 to purchase fiber optic upgrades to the Police and Fire Departments and other municipal venues. The Fire Department has estimated its portion of the upgrade and believes it can be funded within the existing town budget. The funding granted by Town Meeting, therefore, will be used toward making the upgrades to other town buildings as well as to to hook in the Carlisle Public School, including the new Chorus Room.

“The spirit here,” Solomon said, “is that the town recognizes the need for a robust local PEG access program here in Carlisle for school and community education.” Solomon added, “We have already gone over with Comcast the town’s needs for more operating support and PEG access and for expanding the communications fiber to include our purposes. These include the studio, which will cost $80- to $100,000 for live programming [capabilities]. Carlisle will want all three PEG channels and will need to be more on par with Concord on [Comcast] funding, but we will need to have someone from CCTV here down here for significant amounts of time; this would be a paid position through Concord-Carlisle Community Access and we will need to raise operating funds to do that. We will need multiple cameras, editing and green screen capability and other equipment.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandates that cable providers “modestly” fund public access for training, equipment and airtime. The town hopes that connecting the public buildings for live broadcasting and beginning a mini-studio project will meet with Comcast’s approval and that these connections can take place quickly.

Kelly described Comcast’s role in the upgrade as “integrating the signal aggregated here for automatic switching to the head end at CCTV in Concord, so that CCTV can edit and run the live broadcasts.” He will ask Ron Baker, an engineer from Comcast, to look into this and design the upgrade to include all three PEG channels.

To that end, Solomon requested “a financial deal with Comcast in July and licensing in August.” Kelly replied that, “This is a very aggressive schedule, but I’ll put my best foot forward to make that happen. These requests are reasonable and within the realm of possibility; this is where we need to be right now to get things moving. My biggest challenge will be to bring a justifiable case for going early. The town’s funding their ownership of the cable certainly points up their desire to move forward on this, and the license runs out in a year [October of 2011], so we need to amend and restate it to reflect the changes. I will need a comprehensive equipment and editor list and mini studio cost estimates by next week.”

Bill Tice, committee chair and liaison from the Board of Selectmen, set the committee’s next meeting for July 29 at 7:30 p.m., “hopefully to hammer out a deal with Comcast.” Solomon will write a draft of the contract and when the committee has approved it, it will go to the Selectmen for final approval. ∆

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