New cable contract for boro under review

Staff Writer

New cable contract
for boro under review
Staff Writer

METUCHEN — The borough is currently negotiating a new contract with Cablevision.

However, by and large, there’s not much to negotiate with the borough’s sole cable service provider, officials said last week.

One firm is awarded the contract for a particular region, and customers are not free to shop around for other cable companies, officials said.

Congressional deregulation in recent years has only exacerbated the situation.

"Since the Telecommunications Act of 1998, we have very little bargaining power," Mayor Ed O’Brien said. "We have no control."

O’Brien outlined some of the borough’s concerns. One is pricing.

"They’re going off the scale," he said.

Also at issue are the limited number of choices cable customers have compared to satellite services. Such services can often offer as many as three times the channels at roughly equivalent prices, officials said.

Additionally, O’Brien noted that his office has received numerous complaints from citizens frustrated with poor service practices.

Edison is also in the midst of negotiating a new cable contract, and last month residents aired similar complaints with Cablevision at a public hearing sponsored by the township.

Borough Council President Alan Grossman, liaison to the cable committee, reinforced O’Brien’s comments, particularly when it comes to pricing.

"Unfortunately, in regards of a municipality, you’re really at the mercy [of the cable company]," he said.

Grossman said that when the last contract was negotiated 10 years ago, Cablevision wanted to charge the borough "an exorbitant amount of money" to carry live feeds of council meetings on public access.

The borough balked, opting instead to tape the meetings and run them at a later time.

Primary issues the new contract is addressing include connections for the borough’s schools and other municipal buildings.

This time around, Grossman is optimistic that the new contract will allow for live feeds of meetings.

Grossman said negotiations are in the later stages now and should be finalized shortly.