The Wanderer - Mobile Edition


'Friendly Denial' for Comcast Contract

Tri-Town Selectmen's Meeting

By Marilou Newell

The Marion, Mattapoisett, and Rochester Boards of Selectmen, during a joint meeting of the Tri-Town selectmen on December 15, rejected the renewal of the three towns' contract with Comcast with a unanimous vote.

Marion was represented by Town Administrator Paul Dawson and Selectmen Jonathan Henry and Jody Dickerson. Town Administrator Michael McCue and Selectmen Richard Nunes and Brad Morse were present from Rochester, and in Mattapoisett's corner were Town Administrator Michael Gagne and Selectmen Tyler Macallister and Paul Silva.

Gagne right away made it clear to the viewing audience and those of the media who were in attendance that the vote they were about to cast was in no way an end to cable service in the area. On the contrary, the vote would allow the communities and Comcast more time to reach an amicable agreement.

Massachusetts General Laws that govern such contractual agreements between cable providers and communities, however, require that when the expiration of a contract is nearing and an agreement cannot be reached before its expiration, the communities must vote not to renew. Negotiations have been taking place for a number of weeks.

"...Proposals are being exchanged back and forth and we'll continue to negotiate," stated Gagne. "I don't want it to be construed we are done and finished - quite to the contrary ... TV will not end." He continued, "This is a formal process and cable will continue as it has been provided to you."

Dawson called it a "friendly denial," saying that relations between the cable giant and the Tri-Town "are not acrimonious." McCue echoed the sentiments of his fellow town administrators.

Also present during the brief public meeting was Mary O'Keeffe, Comcast senior manager of government and regulatory affairs of government relations. Although her area of expertise is governmental contracts, she was asked about the closing of local Comcast offices in Marion and Fairhaven. Town offices were hearing from residents that the closing of these customer service centers would cause a hardship when trying to do business with Comcast.

O'Keeffe said that although she understood that change was difficult, Comcast has found that customers are using more online services than vis-a-vis services. She said customers have become more proficient using self-help tools on the website and overall could do more for themselves. She also said that people can still go to a Comcast office in New Bedford, Middleboro, or Sandwich if they choose to do so.

Furthering the theme of self-help tools, O'Keeffe said that seasonal users of Comcast services could turn their service off and on from their desktops without having to move equipment back and forth between a Comcast office and their homes in what she termed a "sleeper service."

O'Keeffe said she had information for residents, which prompted Gagne to ask if she could send it to each town hall so self-help information could be posted on the towns' websites. She concurred that might be helpful and agreed to do so.

With business concluded, the meeting was closed. For more information on the current status of Comcast contract negotiations, you may contact your local town administrator.

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