November 21, 2012

Vassalboro prepares to renegotiate Time Warner Cable franchise agreement

Town manager seeks residents' input on company; local tax on customers likely to remain at 3 percent, says selectman chairman

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

VASSALBORO -- Town Manager Mary Sabins wants to hear from residents about their experience with Time Warner Cable as the town begins the process of negotiating a new long-term franchise agreement with the company.

Selectmen met Wednesday morning to hear from Mike Edgecomb, a company representative, to find out what the company is proposing for a new contract.

The current agreement doesn't expire until March 2014, but Sabins wants to begin talks well in advance to give selectmen and the public a chance to have input. Now, the town gets a 3 percent cable franchise fee as part of the agreement, which generates about $14,000 a year for the town, she said.

The town could reduce that percentage to zero, or increase it to as high as 5 percent. Chairman Robert Browne said he would not want to increase the cost to residents, but the town likely cannot afford to lower it, either.

"I'm not interested in going higher," he said.

While the current agreement covers 10 years, Time Warner would like to get the town to sign a 15-year contract, Edgecomb said. Sabins said it's unlikely the town would go longer than an additional 10 years, and asked about any potential changes in technology that may overtake the current cable system.

"Because of technology, we're rebuilding the cable system constantly," he said.

Sabins said she's heard from one resident on Getchell Corner Road who is not able to get service from Time Warner, and is interested to know if there are other areas in town without service. The town can negotiate an expansion of service and the franchise fee, but it does not control which channels are available or the programming offered in the area.

Selectmen are expected to host a public hearing on the Time Warner contract early next year and Sabins said residents can feel free to email her with suggestions at msabins@vassalboro.net. She can also be reached at the town office at 872-2826.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643
scover@mainetoday.com

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