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 Arguing that it is obsolete technology is irrelevant and ignorant of true consumer need and misses the point of the purpose of the reserve fund.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.