Cable television

City renews its cable distribution contract | Local News

A 10-year contract renewal awarded to Comcast Cable this week capped off a cordial and productive negotiation process, city officials said — a marked improvement from the company’s last renewal talks a decade ago.

The new cable television pact, approved and signed by elected officials on Tuesday, will expire on January 31, 2030 and includes a side agreement continuing rate reductions for eligible seniors.

Mark Stopa, chairman of the city’s cable television advisory committee, said members of the ad hoc committee entered renewal talks with a wish list that included improvements to capital funding, equipment and technology.

“We are pleased to announce that we have reached agreement on each of these items except a digital programming guide,” Stopa said.

Most important, Stopa added, was Comcast’s commitment to add a fourth local access channel with high-definition capabilities.

The so-called HD potential was called a “huge gain” by Michael Webber, executive director of Foxboro Cable Access.

Comcast Xfinity is one of two cable/internet providers operating in Foxboro. The other, Verizon Fios, is also nearing the end of a 10-year contract that expires in about a year.

“In a way, Comcast’s renewal was almost a rehearsal for Verizon,” said longtime Foxboro Cable Access board member and ex-officio Cable Advisory Board member Paul Beck.

Under the terms of the two contracts, the providers pay the equivalent of 4.75% of gross revenue to fund Foxboro’s cable access company, Beck said.

Recalling the earlier contract renewal 10 years ago as an anxious time, Webber said FCA learned it could no longer occupy cable access studios at Comcast’s local facility on East Belcher Road.

“At that time, Foxboro Cable Access was desperately looking for a home,” Webber recalls. “That, quite honestly, has been a struggle for us.”

In retrospect, he added, things turned out for the best. FCA – which celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2019 – quickly identified available rental space at 28 Central St. and was eventually able to purchase the building.

“Our strategy of buying the building has worked very well for us,” he said.

Webber also cited a number of other significant accomplishments over the past 10 years, including:

  • Ongoing support (including equipment upgrades) for a video production class at Foxboro High School, as well as growing influence at Ahern Middle School – where morning announcements are cabled internally via a television format.
  • Installation of a cable television control room at the Boyden Public Library similar to existing facilities at City Hall and the high school media center.
  • Installation of a separate control room in the high school gymnasium for broadcasts of sporting events.

“We’ve really expanded our reach over the past 10 years,” Webber observed.

Over the next 10 years, Webber said FCA hopes to expand educational opportunities to train new volunteers, continue existing relationships with local institutions and even branch out into more conventional news gathering and reporting.

“We are aware that local media continue to have strict financial restrictions,” he said.

City Manager William Keegan and Councilor David Feldman thanked the members of the Cable Advisory Board for their efforts in successfully completing a long and complex renewal process.

“It’s not just a simple contract renewal, it’s a process,” Keegan said. “Because of that, I really appreciate the work that goes into it.”

Catherine Maloney, senior director of government and regulatory affairs at Comcast, who participated in the renewal talks, was present for Tuesday’s contract signing.

“She’s been very patient and very, very supportive,” Beck said.