To the Editor,
I would like to correct the impression given in the last issue of The Pawling Record that the Cable Franchise Agreement with Comcast proposed by the Town Board is a “new agreement.” This agreement is the same boilerplate agreement that was negotiated in 2010 and has been left unsigned until the current version this year that has minor changes. Why aren’t we demanding a higher level of services and broadband speed that have emerged since then?
High-speed Internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. In fact, increased Internet speed is directly correlated to attracting new business in Pawling, job creation to keep our young people here, and increased individual income. While many of us understand the appreciation of real estate, we discount the value of electronic real estate like the Internet.
In January of 2017, Comcast announced that it was rolling out “1 Gig Internet” speeds to a majority of its customers including Carmel – that is 10 times faster than our current Internet speed. Why aren’t we demanding this as part of the agreement?
Comments made by multiple people at the public hearing include the “no-brainer” to reduce the 15-year term, which is the equivalent of a lifetime in technology. Eleven years ago Steve Jobs released the first iPhone, and Facebook became available to the general public in 2006. Where will we be in 2032?
It is standard to include free service to public buildings in a municipal franchise agreement, but the list of Public Buildings in Exhibit A of the Pawling document does not include the Village, Fire Stations, or Lakeside buildings.
Comcast makes a standard offer of $15,000 to pay for the purchase of video equipment to telecast programming from Town Hall. This would allow viewing on a cable channel. The Town Board stated that installing video technology for streaming is “too costly.” Not only do Beekman, Dover, and Millbrook stream and podcast their municipal meetings, but they do it with dramatically lower town budgets.
Viewing a video feed of the Town meetings over “FaceBook” or “Periscope” using a smartphone or computer and Wifi is more the rule than the exception. The right to public information is part of a healthy democracy.
The Comcast Franchise Agreement is an opportunity for Pawling leadership to demonstrate they can begin to take us into the future to strengthen our growth and prosperity. There is still an opportunity to re-examine the agreement and make these and other changes, and I hope they do so.