Boro Wants New Contract Before Transferring Cable Franchise
MATAMORAS — The Borough Council, via a resolution, denied Cablevision System Corporation’s (CSC) request that the borough transfer the name now listed on the borough/CSC cable TV franchise agreement to Altice, N.V., which is acquiring CSC. The council members discussed cable TV and Internet provider services at this month’s regular council meeting, held at Borough Hall last week. CSC requested that the Borough approve a transfer of the existing franchise names to Altice via a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Form 394 that CSC submitted to the Borough in late October.
The proposed CSC buyer, Altice, is a multinational cable, fiber, telecommunications and TV content provider, and a media company. The Borough Council subsequently retained the Cohen Group as a cable TV franchise agreement consultant. Borough Secretary Bob Fitch said that the CSC franchise agreement is under the jurisdiction of a Matamoras Borough Cable Television Franchise Ordinance, adopted on April 20, 1965 between the borough and Matamoras Cable. Joseph Biondo owned Matamoras Cable, but sold it to CSC in 2009. Currently, CSC also provides services to borough offices, such as Borough Hall, Eastern Pike Regional Police, Emergency Management Agency, Borough Dept. of Public Works, and Recreation (Airport Park), and to borough residents.
The Cohen Group and Borough Council Solicitor Eric Hamill advised the council not to permit the name transfer. Hamill said, “I advise that you not approve the transfer and that you repeal the borough cable franchise ordinance.” Councilman Dee Losee was the only councilman to vote against the name-transfer request denial. He said that he was concerned that such a denial could subject the borough to a potentially costly court action by the cable provider.
The council approved scheduling a public hearing to repeal the ordinance at 6:45 p.m. on March 1 at Borough Hall. Borough Secretary Bob Fitch said that the ordinance was out of date and no longer compliant with current Act 95, a federal regulation covering cable franchise agreements. Councilman Mark Madsen reported that the three borough council representatives, Madsen, Dave Clark, and Dee Losee, met with CSC in November, right after CSC submitted a federal form notifying the borough of the pending $17.7 billion CSC sale to Altice.
The Borough Council representatives sought to negotiate a new franchise agreement (under a new borough ordinance, which would likely be passed following the public hearing next month).
Borough council representatives presented CSC with the following three borough concerns:
• Currently, CSC provides New York metro-area and Trenton content, but no content from Pennsylvania. The council wants Altice to provide Pennsylvania cable TV content. Clark said virtually all borough residents want Pennsylvania news and cable programs;
• When CSC pays the borough its annual 2 percent cable TV franchise fee, CSC sends a check with no documentation as to what is comprised within the 2 percent payment. The borough wants CSC/Altice to send the check with items documented;
• CSC bills the borough close to $5,000 a year for providing borough offices with Internet broadband service. The borough wants CSC/Altice to provide the service free, the way Matamoras Cable did... for complete story, get this week's issue.