"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Friday, August 4, 2017

Selectmen to Continue 2% Time Warner/Spectrum Cable Franchise Fee

For those in town that subscribe to Time Warner Cable/Spectrum, you have been paying 2% on most of your cable bill ( 2% of the cable providers gross revenues)  as per the contract the town entered into with Adelphia in 2001.  Adelphia went bankrupt some years ago and was acquired by TWC, recently aquired by Charter/Spectrum.

There was a discussion begun by Selectman Bartlett, to eliminate the 2% fee which he argued ( correctly I think)  that it is a tax on those of us that are cable subscribers. He made a motion to delete the 2% tax from the contract, but no second was made and the motion failed. I don't know at this point if the contract can be amended as it may have automatically renewed for a five period when it expired in March of this year.
In any event, the bigger discussion was about the Communication and Technology Fund created at town meeting in 2007, wherein most of the cable franchise fee , (last year it was approximately $30k ) is deposited into it. Today the fund has about $180k remaining. The purpose of the fund was for money to build out internet access in town. $43k was used to upgrade service for some Fairpoint customers who were under served last year.
Selectman Beadle told the BoS that her internet " speed" is just 780 kb, not nearly enough for even basic web activities.
It matters not the definition of true broadband or how the FCC defines it.  Fairpoint recently advised that it can offer up to 25 MBS via DSL in some areas. If you are getting just 780 KBS going up to anywhere near 25 MBS is a huge and welcomed improvement. Arguing that it is obsolete technology is irrelevant and ignorant of true consumer need and misses the point of the purpose of the reserve fund.
I believe that spending money from the Capital Reserve Fund to increase speed to under served areas is money well spent.

Josh Bartlett did make some excellent points in that there are other means to access high speed internet such as Hughes Net which offers 25 MBS if you have a southerly exposure and now Fairpoint with enhanced DSL. He was successful in convincing the BoS to send a letter to TWC/Spectrum to honor the contract and open an outlet/office locally in town and perhaps contract with a local company such as Lakes Region Computer to provide services that we currently need to travel to Plymouth or North Conway offices to access.

So what of the $180K  in the Communication and Technology Capital Reserve Fund? It can be returned to the general fund if there is a warrant article approved at Town Meeting to do so, but I would vote against it. There is still a need in town to bring better internet access to a number of areas, and perhaps it could be used as seed money to support an emerging technology.

The future is coming at us at a rapid speed, and we need as a town to keep up. In 2017, it is just not acceptable that  within our borders residents do not have adequate internet access.


Anonymous said...

As for Ms. Beadle's low rate of 780KB due to her location being too far from the DSL station, perhaps instead of Hugh's satellite, she should try using her cell phone setting up a wifi hot spot which will give her 50 mbs, faster than much of Time Warner's network. Verizon, AT&T and US Cellular all offer 4G LTE, which is as fast as cable and all three companies that provide service in this area offer unlimited data plans.

Using wi-fi hotspots while not as convenient, does offer a sensible relatively low cost solution if one has reasonable 3g or 4g LTE service.

Moultonboro Blogger said...

Correction/clarification: Selectman Beadle does not currently have DSL nor is it available from Fairpoint on the section of Sheridan Road where she lives. She is a customer of fixed wireless service Cyperpine which offers very slow connection speeds.

Bill Gassman said...

After the Moultonboro bandwidth survey in 2013, the town reached out to both Fairpoint and Time Warner to discuss infrastructure improvements. Between its impending acquisition and the television franchise contract renewal, Time Warner wasn't interested in talking about shared investments.

Now that the TWC acquisition by Charter is complete, it is time for another try at expanding the town's cable footprint. The town's investment with Fairpoint is paying off nicely, but the DSL technology used by Fairpoint is much slower than Cable. DSL slows down with distance from the hubs and many can only expect a maximum of 7 megabits/second. This is not enough for a large household of modern internet users, using a 3 Mbps/person formula.

Spectrum/TWC offers up to 100 megabits/second business grade service in residential areas today and is looking at a 300 Mbps offering by next year. While the future of available technology is hard to predict, cable is the best answer today. Cellular WiFi hotspots with an unlimited data plan is an interesting option, but still expensive.

Now that the select board has weighed in on keeping the franchise fee active, it is time to reconstitute the town's broadband working group. The town's goal of 100% connectivity is close to being met. Let's find the remaining holes and invest to fix them. Then, on to increasing speed towards the 25/3 Mbps FCC benchmark. With $180,000 earmarked for communication improvements, there is no excuse for residential internet service maxing out at 768 kilobits/second.