Jim Sofranko, Town Board Member & Chair of the Olive Cable Franchise Negotiating Committee provided the following update.
There is a vast amount of talk being floated around at the state level regarding broadband build-out money for rural NYS. The most significant amount is the $500 million the governor earmarked for rural broadband build-out after the Wall Street settlement a few years ago. However, as you can imagine when a vast amount of money is being offered at the state level there are many hands out looking for funding. We are competing with areas that have no cable at all in their towns, no cellular service for vast stretches (as cell service qualifies as broadband), and higher density areas of population where the build-out will yield more service to more people for less money. In addition, the state plan is not at all clear as to the priorities or methods of the money distribution.
The Town of Olive Cable Franchise Committee has been in franchise contract negotiations with Time Warner, now Spectrum/Charter since 2014. Buildout is the number one priority in this negotiation determined by the survey we completed in 2014 to best ascertain of the needs of our community. The contract Spectrum/Charter has offered us is far worse in many ways than the existing, expired, contract we currently have with them. By law our expired contract will remain in effect until we have settled a new one. As you may know, the Time Warner/Charter merger resulted in a change in management resulting in the retirement of the person with whom we have been negotiating for two years. This merger and management change has set back our talks considerably.
We are currently working with the Ulster County Office of Economic Development (UCOED) in gathering existing and aggregating franchise contracts from surrounding Ulster County communities to compare what other town have in their contracts. There are definitely some towns that have provisions for build-out in their contracts and we will be trying to leverage these contracts in our negotiations. In addition, the UCOED will be helping us in negotiating for buil-dout during our contract talks. They may have some influence as to the NYS broadband money and where it is directed.
Once we have that information, we will be meeting with the new Spectrum/Charter representative to make our case for broadband build-out in the Town of Olive.