Tisbury selectmen hold Comcast hearing

The Tisbury selectmen met jointly with the board of public works (BPW) commissioners Tuesday. They followed that meeting up with a public hearing of cable provider Comcast’s license renewal.

The meeting with the BPW commissioners was originally scheduled to follow the public hearing scheduled to begin at 5:15 pm. Late Friday afternoon selectmen rescheduled the meeting to 4 pm, leaving the public in the dark.

Acording to town officials who were aware of the time change and did attend, after discussing a problem with parked cars along Pine Tree Road, the selectmen agreed that parking should be restricted around the intersection of State Road and Pine Tree for safety reasons.

The public hearing for Comcast’s cable television 10-year license renewal, which expires next June and is not exclusive, provided an opportunity for selectman Tristan Israel to air a frequent complaint — namely that the costs for Comcast services go up at least once a year.

As part of Comcast’s contract, the company makes cameras, editing equipment, and technical direction available to Martha’s Vineyard Community Television (MVTV), the Island’s public access cable network.

During the public comment session, MVTV president and former Tisbury selectman Denys Wortman, said Comcast has been very responsive to requests from MVTV.

In keeping with its contract, Comcast makes periodic payments to MVTV of an agreed-upon percentage of its annual gross revenues from subscribers. That money is used to operate the MVTV station and upgrade its equipment and facilities.

Mr. Israel said he heard MVTV had amassed $400,000 for a capital project. Unaware of the exact contractual details that established public access channels, he argued that Tisbury should get its portion of community funding from Comcast first, and that MVTV, which is directed by a board of Island residents, should vet projects through a public process before getting the funds.

Mr. Wortman said MVTV, a nonprofit organization, is legally allowed to receive money from Comcast directly, as are similar organizations statewide. The $400,000 set aside for MVTV is to build an addition on the television station facility, Mr. Wortman said, which is an old tractor shed at the regional high school that has been fixed up over the years.

In other comments, Dukes County Emergency Services director Chuck Cotnoir asked the selectmen to find out whether Comcast has an emergency management plan to provide alternate service.

Mr. LaPiana said the town’s cable advisory board would take all of the issues raised during the hearing into consideration in drafting new agreements with Comcast and MVTV before next June.