WINCHESTER - After the Cable Advisory Committee voted 8-0, the Select Board also unanimously approved a new five-year agreement with Verizon.
Ashley Stevens, Chair of the Cable Advisory Committee, told the board the agreement expired back on June 16. This new agreement now affords WinCAM an HD channel.
The committee has $220,000 in capital funds; however, Stevens said the issue remains operating funds. Verizon will continue to pay five percent until the Comcast license is renewed sometime in September. When that happens, Stevens said they will try and get Comcast to pay five percent, as well.
The town renewed its contract with Comcast back in late August of 2010 for 10-years. At that time, they agreed to pay 4.625 percent for the first three years, then 3.875 percent for the remaining seven.
Stevens actually began contract negotiations with both Verizon and Comcast in March of 2018. At that time, cable subscriptions were already dropping as people moved to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Now, with even more options such as HBO Max and Apple TV, one can only assume even less residents have a cable subscription nowadays.
Historically, Winchester had one supplier: Comcast. However, in 1999, RCN expressed interest in bringing their cable service to town. Unfortunately, negotiations took so long that the company never built out. But in 2005, Verizon showed up, and Stevens said back in 2018 that negotiations went much smoother thereby allowing them to begin offering service to Winchester.
The town issued Verizon a license in 2006 for 14-years. In 2010, Comcast sought a license renewal and was granted a 10-year extension. This means that both companies now seek another renewal at the same time.
Even though Verizon came late to the party, so to speak, by 2011 the company took over as the lead cable TV provider in town. By 2016, 53 percent of residents had Verizon service. In 2018, Stevens rightly pointed out that due to people ditching cable for streaming, companies like Verizon would want shorter contracts, hence why they just agreed to a five-year deal when they previously signed a 14-year deal in 2006.
It would then make sense that Comcast would most likely expect a similar deal with the town. Neither company wants to get locked into a deal when less people are paying for their services, because regardless they would still have to pay the town the four or five percent fee. The town uses that money to bolster its local access provider WinCAM which covers everything from Town Meeting to Town Day.