I was able to attend the public meeting where the negotiation team briefed the Cable Access Committee regarding the tentative relicensure agreement with Comcast. I was disappointed to learn that the proposed agreement falls far short of our community's expressed needs. The Executive Committee of Amherst Media urges that you not accept this proposed agreement.
Amherst Media would like to meet the community's needs. When we conducted our 360 study five years ago and during the cable reascertainment process last year, we listened carefully to what people in the community want. And what people want is not unreasonable.
People want HD. If you go to Walmart, you literally can not buy a TV that isn't HD capable anymore. Well, you can't! And yet Comcast refuses to let us broadcast on HD. Partly this is because they know that as soon as they let one cable access station have HD, they will all want HD. But isn't it time? Really? Are we just supposed to be grateful they let us broadcast in color?
People want to be able to use the Electronic Program Guide to select programming. People not only want to be able to *find* content, they also want to time-shift it using a DVR. But that's hard, when you can't even see the individual shows in the guide! Comcast tells us that it's just not possible. But of course it's possible. It's not even hard. They just don't want to do it.
Finally, people want more Amherst Media services. This spring, in particular, Amherst Media was stretched to the limit to record and broadcast all the meetings and forums and interviews and candidate statements and awards ceremonies and the list goes on and on. To meet the needs of the community, we constructed a capital budget that would enable significantly more meetings to be recorded and carried live from more locations. But the capital proposed is far less than half of what we requested.
Please note that the capital money is not money that Comcast has to pay. This is a separate fee included on the bill that *we* pay to support the services *we* want. Who is Comcast to tell us what we want to pay for?
When Public-Access Television was created it was with the explicit goal that giant corporations not be able to reach down into communities without giving the public in those communities the same access to the same tools to use for their own ends: to inform, to organize, and to call to action. It was to ensure that if giant corporations got to use Town property to reach us, we — the community — should get to use it too. The current agreement, as proposed, makes a mockery of this principle. It makes the local community a second-class citizen on the corporate network and does not at all give us access to the same tools enjoyed by the giant corporations.
And Comcast does let giant corporations reach down into our community. And it extracts millions of local dollars every year. Millions! During the previous contract, Comcast extracted something like $80 million from Amherst. In return, Amherst should require Comcast to be an effective partner: to let us use the same tools they give the corporations and to be willing to set the franchise fee to pay for the services that the Town wants.
We would like partner effectively with both Comcast and the Town. If Comcast worked with us, they might discover how many people in a town like Amherst don't cut the cable precisely because they want the local coverage. But if the Town accepts this agreement as is, Amherst will spend the next 10 years locked in a technical backwater with antiquated technology, limited ability for the community to find and utilize our programming, and insufficient resources to meet the town's need to record and broadcast meetings and public events. The Executive Committee of Amherst Media urges you to not accept this proposed agreement and to keep Comcast at the negotiating table until they meet the Town's needs.