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Mayor Richard J. Kos today announced the renewal of the City of Chicopee’s cable television license with the signing of a ten year Renewal License agreement with Charter Communications. This is a non-exclusive agreement and does not preclude another provider from entering our City.
The previous ten year Renewal License expired on November 30, 2014. In anticipation of that expiration Mayor Kos and the Cable Television Advisory Committee conducted several federally-required public hearings to give residents the opportunity to provide testimony regarding the questions, issues, comments, or concerns with their cable service. The Cable Television Advisory Committee, consisting of members Thomas Bardon, John Dumont, Joel McAuliffe, George Moreau, Joseph Dziok, and Michael Zaskey, also collected input from residents by conducting a survey of cable related needs that was available online and in City offices.
Using the community input gathered, the City engaged in Renewal License negotiations with Charter Communications. The City hired Epstein & August LLP, a firm specializing in cable television matters, to negotiate on behalf of Chicopee.
“This is typically a two year process,” said Attorney Peter Epstein, the City’s representative during the negotiations. “When Mayor Kos took office there was no active Cable TV Advisory Committee and the renewal process hadn’t even begun.”
On November 26, 2014 Mayor Kos issued a preliminary assessment of denial to Charter Communications because the City and Charter were unable to agree on a number of renewal matters.
After months of negotiations, the City and Charter agreed on the contractual provisions to be included in a new 10-year Renewal License.
"The Chicopee Cable Television Advisory Committee worked diligently in determining community needs relating to a new CATV contract with Charter,” said Advisory Chairman John Dumont. “We actively assisted the Mayor in negotiating the contract and although we did not receive all that we sought, I believe that we delivered a comprehensive and favorable contract with Charter, which is beneficial for the City of Chicopee and its citizens in spite of the limitations placed on us by State and Federal laws."
“We have enhanced our Public, Education and Government (“PEG”) Access programming by addressing the antiquated technological infrastructure that often caused problems with our City Council and School Committee meeting coverage. We guaranteed that a full-time, full-service customer service office will remain in the City of Chicopee for the full 10-year term so that residents can get help with their services in person. We also assured that while Charter is phasing out a senior discount in many other communities, the senior discount will remain in Chicopee for the next 10 years,” said Mayor Kos.
Charter has agreed to provide the following provisions in the new Renewal License:
1. Senior and Handicapped Discount:• All seniors and Handicapped Citizen’s currently receiving a discount will continue to receive the existing discount of 10% off the Basic Service and Expanded Basic Service tiers (or their equivalent). • Newly qualified seniors and Handicapped Citizens will be eligible for a 10% discount off the Basic Service and Expanded Basic Service tiers for 5 years. • All seniors and Handicapped Citizens who are previously registered for discounts off of the Basic Service and Expanded Basic Service tiers will be grandfathered to continue to receive those discounts for the life of the license.• Newly qualified seniors and Handicapped Citizens after the first 5 years of the license will still receive a 10% discount off the Basic Service tier for the remainder of the Renewal License term. • To be eligible, a Subscriber must meet the following criteria: a) Sixty-five (65) years of age or older or handicapped and head of household and in each case receiving one of the following: (i) Supplemental Security Income (SSI); or (ii) Medicaid; or (iii) Veterans’ Services Benefits; or (iv) the City’s income-based senior citizen real estate tax abatement
2. Replacement for antiquated PEG Access infrastructure:• Charter will provide a one-time payment of $25,000.00 for the City to purchase an IP encoder/decoder and associated equipment to replace the antiquated coaxial Institutional Network. This equipment will allow Chicopee Schools Community Television to cablecast local PEG Access programming “live” from any location in the City that has an Internet Service Drop.
3. Charter will provide a total of $1,000,000.00 for PEG Access capital purposes:• Charter will provide funding to the City of Chicopee, in the total amount of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000.00) for PEG Access/Cable-Related equipment/facilities purposes, through $100,000.00 payments each year of the Renewal License.
4. A Third PEG Access Channel will be available for community use:• Chicopee residents will have increased opportunities to create their own programming on a newly available third PEG Access Channel.
5. A Side-Agreement for a new High Definition PEG Access Channel: • On or after January 1, 2018 Charter will provide one (1) High-Definition (“HD”) PEG Access Channel for local programming based on criteria agreed-to by the City and Charter.
6. Charter will continue to Maintain and Operate a Customer Service office in Chicopee:• For the entire term of the new Renewal License, Charter will continue to maintain and operate a full-time customer service office in the City of Chicopee, for general purposes including accepting payments, programming information and receiving and resolving all Complaints, including without limitation, those regarding Service, equipment malfunctions or billing and collection disputes. • Said customer service office shall be open for walk-in business during Normal Business Hours.
7. Credit for Service Interruption:• Charter has agreed to grant a pro rata credit or rebate to any Subscriber whose entire Cable Service is interrupted for twelve (12) or more consecutive hours, a change from the previous license which required 24 or more consecutive hours of interruption before any credit would be received.
8. Free Drops and Cable Service to Public Buildings and Schools:• Charter will continue to provide a drop and monthly Cable Service to all public and school buildings in Chicopee without charge.
9. Comprehensive Consumer Protection Provisions:• Charter will continue to comply with comprehensive “Subscriber Rights and Consumer Protection” provisions in the new Renewal License.
10. Comprehensive Reporting Provisions:• Charter will continue to comply with comprehensive reporting provisions in the new Renewal License.