December 20, 2012TUFTONBORO — Several residents showed up for the Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen's Dec. 10 hearing on the proposed Time Warner Cable Company contract to express their displeasure with the company's channel offerings.
While generally supportive of its service, the company's elimination of Boston channels in favor of the Portland market is a major bone of contention.
The town engaged the services of Attorney Kate Miller of Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella to assist in developing the contract before them and set up a Cable Contract Committee that solicited feedback from residents. The complaints are well-known, but little progress has been made.
According to Miller, the cable industry is very lightly regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. The theory was that the market would regulate it, but in New Hampshire that hasn't happened.
Alicia Gettman said that she has been working with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's office to change the rules at the federal level and urged others to do the same for "Time Warner can't change it." Selectman Carolyn Sundquist said that others in town have communicated at the federal level, too. So far, residents have just regained access to Channel 9.
Sundquist agreed that it needs to addressed legislatively.
" Basically, they say, 'Talk to the hand,'" complained Board Chairman Dan Duffy, who served on the committee. "I've given up. I spent $1,200 on tree work and had the DISH [satellite TV Network] installed…I told them (Time Warner) I don't go into a store and pay for something I don't want."
Gettman noted that Wolfeboro gets Metrocast even though it is in Carroll County, which is considered part of the Maine market. "Our switching is in North Conway," explained Duffy, " and the feed goes into Moultonborough. We're beating our heads against the wall."
"We have no control over it," added Sundquist.
Gettman told the board that she knew all about the Maine candidates while watching available channels but nothing about "our candidates." Sundquist said that Channel 9 was the source for New Hampshire information.
"I've switched to DISH for my TV, internet and phone," declared Mary Ann Murray, who volunteers for Wolfeboro Community TV. "We don't get school district business, concerts or sports. Why do we need a contract at all?" she queried.
"There's no reason not to," answered Sundquist. "It gives them permission to provide service to the town…It's a protection from them not providing service…If we don't sign, what would people who have Time Warner do? "
Duffy pointed out that the contract is not exclusive. Other vendors can come into town. "Vote with your feet! I did," he offered.
Bob Theve questioned what would happen if Time Warner were to go bankrupt. Sundquist reminded those in attendance that Time Warner itself came into Tuftonboro as a result of the previous company's bankruptcy and assured them that another company would fill the void.
"These two have done due diligence," said Selectman Lloyd Wood, referring to the contract. " I thank you for your passion and the way you've phrased things," he told the hearing participants.
The board signed the contract that has received much attention throughout the year. Joe Kowalski, who served on the Cable Contract Committee and has been a vocal critic of Time Warner's switching to the Portland channels, refrained from comment at the meeting, which he takes regular responsibility for taping, saying only that he had "promised Carolyn he'd be quiet this time."
Tuftonboro selectmen's meetings may be viewed on Time Warner, Channel 3, on Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
The board will meet next on Jan. 7, at 7 p.m. The public is welcome to attend work sessions and meetings of committees at their scheduled times, as listed on the Town of Tuftonboro website, www.tuftonboro.org.