Town Council to Consider Cable TV Franchise Agreements at its November Town Council Meeting
The Bethany Beach Town Council will consider renewing a franchise agreement with Mediacom and will also consider approving a new franchise agreement with Comcast at the Town Council meeting on Friday, November 20th, 2020 at 2 PM. Prior to the Council meeting on the 20th the Town Council will conduct a Public Hearing to consider public comments on both franchise agreements on Friday, November 13th at 1 PM.
The franchise agreements only provide for Cable TV service. The Federal Government mandates that Cable TV providers enter into a franchise agreement when providing service to government entities. Such agreements are not conventional contracts negotiated to protect the interests of both parties. Rather, they are agreements regulated by the FCC. Such agreements give Cable TV service providers a great deal of protection, sometimes at the expense of the consumer.
It is also important to note that the term “internet” does not as a rule appear in Cable TV franchise agreements. The main reason is that local governments do not have any legal oversight authority over internet or voice communications services offered in their communities, even though these services may be offered over the same wire as cable TV.
Because of misunderstanding and confusion regarding franchise agreements, many in our community have mistakenly thought that the Town could demand better internet and cable TV service from Mediacom through our franchise agreement.
Nine years ago, when our then-existing 10-year contract with Mediacom was about to expire, the Town put together a coalition of four local communities (South Bethany, Millville, Ocean View, and Bethany Beach). All had franchise agreements with Mediacom that were about to expire and all were, and still are to some extent, dissatisfied with Mediacom service. Collectively, the towns thought they could negotiate major modifications in their agreements to ensure better service or simply walk away from the franchise. The towns intended to demand better cable TV service and a significant upgrade in internet service. We retained a nationally recognized law firm, known for its expertise in telecom issues, to help us do so.
All four towns quickly received an education in the protection the FCC gives cable providers. We could not identify a legal justification (under FCC guidelines) to modify or terminate the agreements to support a demand for better service. And internet service wasn’t even on the table for discussion. We all renewed our franchise agreements with minor modifications.
Recently, because our agreements with Mediacom were about to expire, the four towns came together again and sought expert legal advice. We asked legal counsel if there had been any change in circumstance that would enable us to demand better service from Mediacom. The answer was no.
With that in mind, and because the Bethany Beach agreement with Mediacom expires in November, the Town initiated a dialog with the Company which has resulted in their completion of five important tasks the Town asked them to undertake regarding their infrastructure, equipment, rates, network and service (see attachments). We also negotiated a much shorter four year agreement period.
The Town Council will hear public comments regarding renewing the franchise agreement with Mediacom on November 13th beginning at 1 PM and will consider approving the renewal at a Council Meeting on November 20th at 2 PM.
We are hopeful that Mediacom’s recent work in Bethany Beach results in improved service. However, if Bethany Beach is receiving the best product Mediacom is capable of delivering, the solution is to find another telecom provider willing to invest in the infrastructure to bring better service to our community.
Our franchise agreement with Mediacom allows other companies to provide cable TV service to the Town. In fact, federal law prohibits “exclusive” or non-compete franchise agreements. And as many know, Bethany Beach has aggressively pursued service from other providers for many years to no avail. Until last week.
In great news for the community, Comcast has announced they will bring their service to Bethany Beach residents in the next 12 to 18 months! And in fact, they are marking some areas of the Town at this time as they design the infrastructure needed to deliver service to every home in Bethany Beach. Residents will have access to all Comcast Xfinity services, including Xfinity X1 video platform, Xfinity Home, Xfinity Voice and Xfinity Mobile and businesses will be able to select from the full suite of Comcast Business products and services, including Ethernet network speeds at max Gigabits rates.
The Town Council will hear public comments regarding a new franchise agreement with Comcast on November 13th beginning at 1 PM and will consider approving this new agreement at a Council Meeting on November 20th at 2 PM.
In summary, in the next few weeks, the Town will consider renewing its franchise agreement with Mediacom with steps to be taken to improve services; and also consider entering into a new franchise agreement with Comcast. We are confident that with service improvements by Mediacom and the service offered by Comcast with a new fiber optic infrastructure, citizens and visitors in our community will have significantly enhanced and better choices in modern telecommunications services.
TOWN OF BETHANY BEACH FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2020
PUBLIC HEARING MEETING VIA TELECONFERENCE
The Town Council of the Town of Bethany Beach will hold a public hearing on Friday, November 13, 2020 at 1:00 PM via Zoom teleconference.
The purpose of this hearing is to receive comments regarding entering into a new Franchise Agreement with Comcast to offer Cable Service to Bethany Beach and renewing an existing Cable Service Franchise Agreement with Mediacom.
The proposed agreements are available for inspection in Town Hall, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., (except on scheduled holidays), and are also available on the town’s website www.townofbethanybeach.com
This meeting will be broadcast live using a Zoom platform. The public will be able to comment during the hearing using the Zoom “Chat” function, but the public is also encouraged to send email comments to email@example.com. Email comments will be reviewed by the Town Council, entered into the record and responded to during the public hearing.
For public access to the meeting:
Please access the link below to the webinar at or a few minutes prior to 1:00 PM on November 13, 2020. Upon access you will need to register to listen and comment on the meeting by providing your name, address, and Bethany Beach address (if applicable). You may comment by typing in the chat box shown on the screen during the meeting.
Join Zoom Meeting/Webinar
Meeting/Webinar ID: 842 7672 5492
Advertised: Coastal Point Newspaper (October 30, 2020)
August 17, 2020Town Manager Graviet214 Garfield ParkwayP.O. Box 109Bethany Beach, DE 19930Dear Town Manager Cliff Graviet and the Bethany Beach Council,The local franchise agreement between the Town of Bethany Beach, DE and Mediacom is set to expireon November 4, 2020. Mediacom wishes to continue to provide service to the Town for an additionalrenewal term. To ensure residents are getting the best possible service, we are doing a fewprojects listed below prior to the renewal to ensure the area is operating at its peak.1. Area Drive-Out• We will have a technician drive out our entire plant in the town limits of Bethany Beach toreview cable attachments, cable lines on the ground, pedestals, lockboxes, and other Mediacomequipment to ensure everything is in-line with industry standards. We will prioritize repairs inorder to quickly resolve any issues found in Bethany Beach.2. Equipment Review• We will review all the high-speed Internet modems and digital cable boxes in the Bethany Beacharea to ensure all equipment is up to date. We will ensure all modems are DOCSIS 3.0 compliant orgreater and digital boxes will match our current technical specifications. We will contactcustomers to upgrade their modems if any do not meet this criterion. In the event new equipment isrequired, we will contact customers in order to arrange the necessary replacement. We will managethis via mail delivery, to reduce any customer inconvenience, unless a customer would like to makeother arrangements.3. Seasonal Rates• We will provide information for our seasonal rates as soon as the rates are official for theyear and send out notices with a copy in the monthly billing statement. We will also provide copiesof the information to Town Manager, Cliff Graviet. We will ensure all our customer facing employeesare well versed on the seasonal plan, so no confusion occurs if a customer calls to request aseasonal plan.4. Network Analysis• We will do a complete network analysis of our entire plant to make sure all equipment andsignals meet Mediacom’s stringent and industry technical specifications. This will be done by ourexperienced engineering team and we’ll provide a summary of our findings with an expectedcompletion date of September 30, 2020.5. Survey Follow Up Calls• We currently conduct follow up survey calls for a percentage of our installation and troublecalls completed in the area. We will increase this for the area which will allow customers toprovide feedback on the appointment as well as let us know any existing concerns thatmay arise so they can be addressed.We look forward to continuing to work with the Town of Bethany Beach to ensure we are providingquality internet, phone, and television services to all residents. We are open to any meetings theTown would like to have in order to answer any questions or concerns that may arise.If you have any questions, I can be reached by phone at 850.934.2551 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.Sincerely,Christopher LordMediacom CommunicationsSr. Manager, Government Relations**********************************************************
September 30, 2020Town Manager GravietTown of Bethany Beach, DE214 Garfield ParkwayP.O. Box 109Bethany Beach, DE 19930
Dear Town Manager Graviet,We want to thank you again for working with us on a new franchise agreement between the Town ofBethany Beach and Mediacom Communications. I wanted to provide you an update on the five-point planthat was outlined in our letter sent on August 19, 2020.1. Area Drive Outa. The area drive-out has been completed. I have attached to this letter a document showing thelocations where a fix was completed, the details of the fix, and the date of the completion.2. Equipment Reviewa. All equipment has been reviewed. All modems in the Bethany Beach area being used for internetmeets our current requirements and is up to date. Any customer who would like to swap their DVR ordigital box can do so through calling us and initiating a swap through the mail.3. Seasonal Ratesa. The seasonal rates have been provided by corporate and I have attached the letter to the Townwith the details of the seasonal rates.4. Network Analysisa. We have completed a preliminary assessment of the network and we have an in-depth networkanalysis being done over the next thirty days to address any network issues that were found.5. Survey Follow Up Callsa. This process is in place and will start this month. We will review a set percentage of callsthat result in a trouble call to audit and ensure that everything was done properly, and allprocedures were followed.We look forward to continuing to work with the Town of Bethany Beach to make sure we are meetingthe standards the town expects from us as a company. If you have any questions, I can be reached byphone at 850.934.2551 or via email at email@example.com.Sincerely,Christopher LordMediacom CommunicationsGovernment Relations Manager, Coastal RegionSeasonal Packaging – 2020/2021 – Bethany Beach, DEOption 1:This seasonal offer is available to customers whose accounts are current and in good standing andthat are not home during the seasonal period which runs between September 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021.It requires a minimum of two months and a maximum of six months. A seven- day notice is required inorder to move to this program and all services on the account must be placed on seasonal.On this program, phone services, your Mediacom email address, and TVEverywhere services willcontinue to function. Internet services and television services will be suspended.All accounts that are on this seasonal package will automatically be reverted to normal servicesonce the seasonal time period ends on March 31, 2021.On this offer, there will be no installation fees, repackaging fees, or appointments necessary oncethe program ends. Customers will not need to return their equipment.
Note: This package is not available for customers with Home Controller service.Option 2:This seasonal offer is available to customers that are not home during the seasonal period whichruns between September 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021. It requires a minimum of two months and a maximumof six months. A seven-day notice is required in order to move to this program and all services onthe account must be placed on seasonal.On this program, services will remain active so that customers who visit their homes periodicallywill not experience interruptions or lesser service levels.All accounts that are on this seasonal package will automatically be reverted to normal servicesonce the seasonal time period ends on March 31, 2021.On this offer, there will be no installation fees, repackaging fees, or appointments necessary oncethe program ends. Customers will not need to return their equipment.Pricing: This package provides a 50% discount on all your current, recurring monthly servicesthrough March 31, 2021. Any billable phone calls such as directory assistance; or PPV or VOD ordersmade during this time will be billed at their full, current advertised rate. Should any rateschange during this time frame they will be reflected on your bill however you will receive a 50%discount through the end of the package which ends on March 31, 2021.Note: This package is not available for customers with Home Controller service.Process:The customer will contact Mediacom, where a customer service representative will explain thepromotional options available. The customer can decide what seasonal promotion best fits theirneeds and the Mediacom representative will enter the order to start within seven days. Notechnicians will be sent, as everything can be handled remotely. The customer will still receivetheir billing statements via mail, so we will need to set a forwarding address if the customer willnot be at the residence. On March 31, 2021 the package will automatically expire and will revertback to their normal rates and service levels. Customers will not need to contact us to makechanges, but if they want to end their seasonal packages early, they can call us and we can endearly (with a minimum of two months in the seasonal package).If neither option fits the needs of the customer, they can either keep services as they are ordisconnect services. If the customer chooses to disconnect, they will be required to returnequipment and a tech will be dispatched to physically disconnect and trap the services outside thehome.If any subscriber would like to sign up for seasonal services, they can contact us via telephone bycalling 888.845.6245Sincerely,Christopher LordMediacom CommunicationsGovernment Relations Manager, Coastal Region