West Windsor Council will hold a public hearing on the renewal of Comcast’s cable TV franchise agreement with the township during its meeting on Jan. 3.
The current 15-year franchise agreement with the provider is due to expire next March, and Robert Clifton, Comcast director of government and community affairs, appeared before council on Dec. 12 to discuss the process. Under the franchise agreement, Comcast pays the town to use the municipal road right of way for its telecommunications infrastructure.
Council president Linda Geevers encouraged residents to submit comments and questions regarding the company’s services and products via the municipal website to business administrator Marlena Schmid. Comcast’s application for franchise renewal is also available at westwindsornj.com.
“This is important so that issues can be documented and addressed during negotiations with Comcast,” Geevers said.
Clifton noted that rates and program content are governed by state and federal regulations and thus “outside municipal purview” during franchise agreement negotiations. The franchise agreement is also nonexclusive, meaning other telecom providers can service the town upon certification. Verizon has received certification directly from the Board of Public Utilities, while Comcast deals directly with municipalities.
The town received a total of $349,000 in Cable Television Franchise fees in 2016, which is derived from a percentage rate set by the state BPU.
Chapter 59 of the township code book outlines the previous franchise agreement agreed to in 2002. In addition to the franchise fee, the company provides a dedicated government access channel as well as a channel for Mercer County Community College.
Other commitments that Comcast previously agreed to at the time include free basic TV service to all municipal buildings and every classroom in WW-P schools. Comcast also provided free internet to one personal computer in each school and public library, $75,000 to support technology initiatives in the school district, and $20,000 for audio and video broadcast upgrades in Council chambers.
What’s on the town’s wish list this time around? Schmid declined to disclose any details, citing negotiations.
“The Cable TV Advisory committee is compiling its wish list,” Schmid said. “The community needs to get some benefit from this agreement.”