BERLIN – A public hearing on the town’s cable franchise agreement yielded input from a handful of residents.
Residents used the opportunity to express concern about cost, customer service and the company’s lack of fiber capabilities.
Town Administrator Laura Allen stressed while the town was collecting input, it would not be able to address rates during its Comcast negotiations.
“People can complain about the rates but we’re not in a position to do anything about it in this franchise agreement,” she said. “The federal government has taken away our rate regulation ability many years ago.”
South Main Street resident Neil Winn told the council he was happy with the speed of Comcast’s Internet service but questioned the data caps being implemented by the company. He also pointed out that fiberoptic cable was already installed in the Berlin area.
“I’m wondering why we don’t have fiberoptic service,” he said.
Sam Card of Card’s Technology also expressed interest in fiberoptic service in an email read into the record by Allen. He outlined the benefits fiber had over coaxial cable and suggested it would improve communication among the town’s various remote sites, such as its electric and utility facilities.
“Fiber is the clear choice in reliability,” he wrote. “Lots of municipalities with remote sites are moving to fiber connectivity to tie their offices together for more effective communication. Beyond providing faster access to competing resources, fiber can be utilized to more tightly integrate utility systems.”
Councilman Elroy Brittingham said that he’d been contacted by a resident who thought Comcast’s rates were too high, while Councilman Dean Burrell said he thought the company’s service could be better.
Councilman Zack Tyndall said he’d received an email from the Berlin Fire Company, which was asking to have its cable fees waived.
Managing Director Jeff Fleetwood said the town was typically allotted a number of free hook-ups as part of its agreement with Comcast.
Resident Jason Walter asked whether the franchise fee had been set yet. When Allen said it was still under development, Walter said he wanted to point out that though the company would be paying the town that fee, it would be passed on to consumers.
Allen said franchise fees were typically charged by cities for the right to access their right of way. She acknowledged companies like Comcast did pass that cost on to the consumer. She added, however, the franchise fee in this case had not yet been developed.
Allen said the franchise agreement would return to the council for review and public comment before it was formally approved.