This Feb. 11, 2011 file photo shows Comcast truck in Pittsburgh.
((GENE J. PUSKAR / AP))
HOLYOKE -- The city is seeking space downtown for a station for residents to produce their own cable television programs with the $603,000 from the new, 10-year contract with Comcast, Mayor Alex B. Morse said Wednesday.
“I’m extremely pleased with the results of these negotiations and what it means for the city of Holyoke,” Morse said.
The new contract also maintains the discount on bills for senior citizens of about 10 percent depending on eligibility requirements, increases the amount of money Comcast returns to the city, called Gross Annual Revenues (GAR), to about $400,000 a year from the previous $126,000 a year and increases the capital funding from Comcast to $603,000 over the 10-year contract from the previous $25,000, he said.
The GAR will increase to $450,000 a year in years three to five and to $500,000 a year for the rest of the contract, he said.
The GAR is used to pay staff to record City Council and School Committee meetings, buy the cameras and other equipment for such telecasts and to build a media center for students at Holyoke High School, he said.
The previous, 10-year contract expired in October. Comcast has about 12,000 customers in Holyoke.
Federal law prohibits the city from seeking better deals from Comcast on the biggest complaints residents have made a public hearings, regarding monthly rates and programming choices.
Local cable officials have said the lack of competition for Comcast is tied to cost. Companies see little upside in taking on Comcast or any cable giant in a small market like Holyoke given the multimillion-dollar infrastructure investment required.
That's why, Morse said, he pushed for benefits in areas the city was able to gain such as capital funding and GAR.
The city previously had two local-access channels as part of its deal with Comcast, Channel 12 for education and Channel 15 for government. The new contract adds a third channel for programming created by the public and the goal is to find a space downtown for such a studio, he said.
"This means that residents will be able to utilize the new studio, create their own content and programming, talk shows, any idea they have, and broadcast on the public access channel, as occurs in other communities -- South Hadley, Amherst, Northampton, etc.," Morse said.
All residents, and not just Comcast subscribers, will be able to rent the equipment, he said.
Five jobs, including that of an executive director, will be created as part of the new nonprofit "Holyoke Community Media organization" with salaries paid for from the GAR. They will be employees of the nonprofit and not city employees, he said.