The Island’s Cable Advisory Board (CAB) voted Monday to release a request for proposals (RFP) for cable television service on the Island. A new contract would replace the 10-year license now held by Comcast. That license will expire on June 30, 2011.
The CAB is authorized to release the RFP, though town selectmen are likely to review the document at their regular meetings, according to Jennifer Rand, town administrator of West Tisbury and CAB chairman. The RFP seeks financial information from Comcast and provides an assessment of the current state of Comcast’s service as well as a so-called wish list of services, fees, and capital funding the towns want over the life of a 10-year license renewal.
Under terms of the current license agreement, Comcast pays the town five per cent of the cable television revenues it receives annually from an estimated 10,000 Island subscribers. The annual fees have been about $400,000, based on Comcast’s annual Island cable revenues of $8 million.
Under Federal Communications Commission (FCC) law, communities may negotiate only for cable television service, not for telephone or internet services often provided by cable companies. Towns may not set rates that consumers pay nor do they have any say in determining or changing programming, including packages offered by the cable provider.
The FCC rules set a specific timetable for the license renewal process, to begin six months before expiration of a current license. Attorney William Solomon of Stoneham said the RFP would be in Comcast’s hands by January 28, to provide Comcast with time to respond. Comcast is expected to make an offer in response, Mr. Solomon said, adding that he expects negotiations to begin in February.
In a telephone interview this week, Mr. Solomon said language in the proposed license renewal contracts will be largely the same for each town but that the Edgartown contract will include language to extend cable service to Chappaquiddick Island. Chappaquiddick residents have television reception via satellite providers now.