By G. Michael Dobbs
HOLYOKE – In a new contract with Comcast, Holyoke will receive more money from the cable television giant as well as establishing its first public access television station.
Mayor Alex Morse announced the new 10-year contract on March 4 and said, “We got most of the things we wanted in this contract.”
Morse said the contract includes senior discounts, a substantial increase in percentage of Gross Annual Revenue received to fund the annual operations of public, educational and government (PEG) access programming, a new community public access station and an increase?in the amount of funding allocated for PEG access purposes.
The previous contract gave the city 1.5 percent share of the gross annual revenue Comcast receives from its 12,000 subscribers in Holyoke resulting in about $125,000. Under the new agreement that amount will start at 4 percent for years one and two and then increase eventually to 5 percent with payments starting at $400,000 and reached almost $500,000.
Morse said the city would undertake a national search for a director of the new public access station operation. The city will seek a location, hopefully in the downtown, for it. Comcast will provide $603,000 for the stations capital purposes.
He thanked the members of the Cable Advisory Committee – Al Williams, Jennifer Myszkowski, Mark Wotton, Michael Hines, Rob Deza, Denis Luzuriaga, and James Bickford – for their help in the contract process and announced they will be the members of the new board of the public access station.
The station will create five new jobs as well.
Seniors will also benefit from the new contract, Morse said, as there is a new discount program. All seniors currently receiving a discount will continue receiving the existing discount; and newly qualified seniors will be eligible for a $2 discount off the Digital Starter Tier if they age 65 or older, the head-of-household and Eligible for Medicaid and/or Supplemental Security Income
Morse said, “The community was clear about wanting the same kinds of benefits that other communities have received, and I have negotiated a license that will benefit Holyoke cable subscribers for years to come. Under these conditions, Holyoke will finally have a true PEG Access station that will allow residents to create their own shows and programming which will, in turn, increase civic engagement.”