Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson wants alternatives to Comcast. (WHAV News photograph.)
Haverhill City councilors are asking the mayor to expand the scope of the city’s Cable TV Advisory Committee, to improve video access options for residents, by including members knowledgeable in emerging streaming and broadband technologies.
During a portion of Tuesday’s council meeting, presided by Vice President Melinda E. Barrett, unanimous support came to a motion from President John A. Michitson the panel include “broadband alternatives to Comcast cable TV and appoint additional members with relevant expertise.” Michitson updated councilors on the status of Verizon Wireless’ plans, as WHAV reported in September, to install at least 23 “small cells” atop telephone poles in various city neighborhoods using 4G LTE cellular telephone technology. He said that “best bet” project, instead of “hard wire” home installation, is an improvement on the company’s current wireless services in speed and reliability but it is still down the road as part of a “multi-year process.”
“In addition, the small cells will be the basis for the next generation wireless standard – 5G – which is still on the drawing board,” Michitson said. “They’re already rolling out small cell technology and main fibers in Haverhill’s neighborhoods. There are eight small cell installations currently online, that were completed in November, 12 more to be online in December.”
Verizon has already secured approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and received building permits to place the 23 small cells. Initial coverage centers on the city’s core and two installations in the Riverside neighborhood.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini, Michitson added, is considering the proposed committee expansion.
“I’m hoping that the advisory committee can work with Verizon to shape their plans. As far as alternatives to cable, live TV streaming services over the internet are expected to explode in 2017, with Amazon recently announcing its intentions to enter the market. Cable TV will have plenty of competition from the internet and streaming services,” Michitson said.
Barrett, a current Cable TV Advisory Committee member, was credited by Michitson for the panel expansion idea. She added there is consensus on the panel in favor of expansion and hopes the mayor takes them up on that.
“We are there, we’re discussing them. We might as well just expand the scope for the next ten years, stay a vibrant group after this negotiation is over with Comcast. And look to the future and look to the possible improvements and opportunities for the citizens of Haverhill to have other options in their media,” Barrett said.
The city’s current 10-year, “open” cable contract with Comcast is up for renewal in 2019.
In September, councilors approved a resolution the city name a “Broadband and Network Access Task Force” to explore other high-speed internet opportunities, such as creating a city-owned network.
In other business, councilors unanimously approved, without discussion, an amended ordinance prohibiting building permit fees on construction projects involving buildings owned by or properties leased by the City. As WHAV reported in August, Councilor Colin F. LePage, Administration and Finance Committee chairman, noted the city charged $300,000 in building permit fees for the new Hunking School, but did not charge building permit fees for the new Elmo D’Allessandro police maintenance garage, work at Haverhill Trinity Stadium or the Consentino School library. The fee charged to the new school project last year is not reimbursable by the state and will be paid by taxpayers with interest over 20 years outside of limits set by the tax-limiting law, Proposition 2 ½.