The Town of Sudbury and its cable television provider, Cablevision of Massachusetts, have reached agreement on a 10-year renewal license, which was signed by both Cablevision and the Sudbury Board of Selectmen on Monday November 6th. All Cablevision-owned cable systems in Massachusetts will be transferred to AT&T at the end of the year. Coming only 2 months before the transfer of all Cablevision-owned cable systems to AT&T, the new license is binding on AT&T, and provides tremendous new benefits to the Town. Early this year, as the Sudbury Cable Committee embarked on renewal license negotiations with Cablevision, we set three main goals: First, we wanted cable service to be available to all residents, now and forever. Second, we wanted to greatly expand local programming, and third, we wanted to use the new upgraded cable system to provide a high speed data network for the town. After several months of sometimes difficult negotiations, we are happy to announce that the Cable Committee has delivered on all it’s goals.
First, Cablevision has almost completed upgrading the Sudbury cable system. When completed, this upgrade will provide a significantly higher quality signal, many more channels, digital video services, broadband Internet service via cable modems, and potentially telephone services as well. Under the terms of the new license, the system upgrade will expand service to every Sudbury resident living on a public road. On private roads, access is still legally governed by the developer, but the new license requires that cable service be installed in all new developments as long as the cable company is given access to the trenches.
Second, Cablevision has greatly increased their financial commitment to local broadcasting. The equipment at the Town studio (at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School) will be materially upgraded, the studio coordinator position will be upgraded from part-time to full-time, and the studio budgets will be significantly increased. Also, the Town Hall will be equipped as a remote studio, designed to allow a single volunteer to produce high-quality cablecasts of any meetings held in that room. The committee hopes that more groups will use this room for meetings, thus allowing more of their proceedings to be broadcast to residents. The Cable Committee also encourages residents to get involved with the Town studio, as we expect to be doing great things in the coming months.
Third, Cablevision will construct and operate a fiber-optic data network connecting 16 Town and School buildings. This will provide reliable high-speed Internet access to all our Town offices and Schools, and will permit easy exchange of data within the town. The network will also reduce the Town’s Internet connection costs, as fewer external connections will be required.
Under current law, an important part of any cable television license is the agreement on how municipal benefits are paid for. Legally, the cable companies are allowed to add up to an additional 5% to subscriber bills in return for providing benefits like those listed above. In Sudbury, the Cable Committee felt it was important to limit such additional subscriber costs. Accordingly, they carefully crafted an agreement that covered all the Town’s essential needs, but limited the cable company to collecting only 1% of video-related charges. This translates to about $0.40 per month on the average bill. Thus, Sudbury residents will enjoy their new benefits at minimal added cost.
The new license also establishes many procedures that the cable company must follow in its dealings with the Town, and specific remedies which may be levied on the cable company if it does not comply.
With the new license now signed, all the new local television-related benefits will go into effect early next year, and the Town data network will be completed by next summer. Although the construction of the new subscriber network is nearly complete, the impending transition of ownership from Cablevision to AT&T, coupled with the uncertainly of New England weather, make it difficult to provide an exact timetable for when the new subscriber services will go into effect. Generally speaking, Cablevision/AT&T will soon be adding 14 channels to the existing cable lineup. Next spring, they hope to roll out Broadband Internet service. Finally, before the end of next year AT&T plans to introduce digital video services, which will allow any cable subscriber to receive over 150 channels with digital quality. Unfortunately, some portions of the upgrade may be delayed because some underground construction cannot be performed during winter. Thus, some subscribers may receive new services earlier than others.
We in Sudbury have waited a long time for a modern cable system, but after a lot of diligent effort, the Cable Committee is happy to announce that we are getting one. In fact, after AT&T has deployed all their digital programming services, even satellite dish owners may want to consider switching back to cable. At a minimum, the Cable Committee recommends that dish owners sign up for the cable company’s most “basic” service (costing roughly $10/month) as their method of receiving local broadcast channels with high quality. Not that we are marketing for Cablevision, but we believe that all residents will want to be able to watch our local Access channel
(channel 61) which is also included in the basic package. With our new, expanded access operation, we plan to put many more Town and School meetings and events on the air, with higher quality than we have provided in the past. The result will be a channel which serves as a true ’window’ into Sudbury, which will be of interest to all residents.
If you would like to download the entire Cable license click here for Sudbury’s Cable Television License.
The Sudbury Cable Committee generally meets on the second Tuesday on the month at 7:30 PM. If you would like to attend an upcoming meeting go to the Cable Committees website at https://beta.sudbury.ma.us/cable
Questions can be sent to:
By: Jeff Winston, Chairman
Sudbury Cable Committee