Sunday, September 24, 2023

Comcast Shuns Avalon’s CATV Negotiations 5.31.2006

By Christine Cote

AVALON – There are some things, that by definition, can’t be done solo and negotiation is one.
That’s the reason Avalon Borough Council is still trying to decide whether to adopt a consent ordinance continuing Comcast cable services franchise in the borough.
Prior to council’s regular meeting May 24, Council Vice President Nancy Hudanich announced the continuation of a municipal consent hearing regarding Comcast, which she said had initially commenced Jan. 11.
“We did not feel we were negotiating, we wanted more information,” she said at about 7:30 p.m. The date was set for that night, she explained, adding that an e-mail had been received from a Comcast representative advising that he would attend.
“It brings me to great dismay that there’s a perception this council has not been timely,” said Hudanich in reference to a letter received that afternoon from Comcast’s attorney.
No one from Comcast appeared during the course of that hearing or night’s agenda session or regular meeting, which ended about 8:40 p.m.
“We had a conversation but never got a proposal from Comcast,” said Hudanich, noting that the borough had also been corresponding with Stone Harbor.
We have nothing in writing from Comcast to help us adopt this ordinance of consent, she said.
“There has been no negotiation,” said Councilman Joseph Tipping and explained that he has a substantial background in labor relations. “We have followed the regulations, they never responded.”
“We haven’t heard jack from them,” Tipping said, “and now we’re getting letters from a lawyer saying we’re out of line.”
The letter from Stryker Tams & Dill of Newark and New York City, which was not read aloud, is dated May 24 and marked received by the borough clerk at 2:47 p.m. Directed to Stephen Barse, borough solicitor, the letter noted that Comcast received notice of the hearing on May 22.
It advised that since Comcast’s application for renewal was submitted to the borough Sept. 22, 2005, a hearing should have been completed by Jan. 22.
Comcast’s attorney further states that a hearing now is improper and that “Comcast has attempted to negotiate a franchise renewal based upon reasonable terms and conditions and remains hopeful that same can be accomplished.”
“They’re arrogant,” said Councilman Charles Covington.
“Comcast has objected to continuation of the hearing because it wasn’t within a certain amount of time,” explained Council President Richard Dean and he opened the floor for public comment.
“They’re not going to shut the cable service down?” John McKelvey asked, from his seat in the audience.
“Only in your block,'” quipped Covington.
The borough’s franchised agreement ends June and the company can’t just terminate service, explained Barse.
“Service will continue but they have to come to the table with something in writing,” said Hudanich.
“We have never negotiated anything,” said Abner Dowdell, chair of the borough’s cable TV franchise renewal committee.
“They have come to the table with just rhetoric,” he added describing the company’s behavior as “arrogant and deplorable.”
Resident Dave Knoche, sitting next to Dowdell, said, “He has as much negotiating experience as Joe,” referring to Tipping.
Comcast never addressed the issue concerning emergency services raised by Harry de Butts, Dowdell told council.
Until spring 2005, de Butts, who is in charge of emergency management for the borough, was able to call a phone number and immediately broadcast a message to residents on every cable channel. That is, until he tried to warn residents of flooding last spring and got a recording saying that the number had been disconnected.
He told council in September that Comcast simply turned of the switch eliminating his “most useful means of communication,” leaving him with “layered altering program,” with AM radio capability and the boulevard sign where he could post a text message.
An explanation as to why the prior emergency system could not be reinstated was to be part of the negotiation process.
Citing the statutory framework that governs council’s role in this process, Hudanich said, “We need a list of all we expect to get from our franchise.”
Council could not perform its required role without further information she said and recommended: “We should close the public hearing, wait till they step up to the plate. They can’t shut us off.”
Contact Cote at (609) 886-8600 Ext 31 or:

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