Haverhill Signs New Cable Television Contract; Pact Calls For High Definition Local Channel

Cable TV Advisory Committee Chairman William Gould. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill has completed a new 10-year agreement with Comcast which, among other things, calls for one local television channel to use high definition technology.

Comcast has three years to convert one of the local channels—either public access, education or government—to the high-quality video format. The agreement, negotiated by the city’s Cable TV Advisory Committee, also requires Comcast to pay 5% of its local gross revenues—currently $1.3 million annually—to support local programming and $1.1 million over the life of the contract for equipment upgrades. In a statement, Mayor James J. Fiorentini emphasized the agreement is non-exclusive and the committee sought cable and internet competitors.

“They worked really hard to recruit another company to come here so that there would be competition. They invited companies in, interviewed them, but no other company was interested and only Comcast bid. But we are not going to give up our quest to find another company,” the mayor said.

Fiorentini explained Verizon and others say they are either not expanding in Massachusetts or that coming to Haverhill would be too expensive due to the high cost of installing lines in one the state’s largest geographical cities. Another reason often cited, the mayor said, is that Comcast already has such a large share of the marketplace that not enough of its almost 20,000 Haverhill customers could be expected to switch to a new provider to make it profitable.

As WHAV reported in January, the city’s negotiating committee chaired by William Gould, had largely reached agreement with Comcast, but the person sitting across the table—Comcast Senior Manager Robert F. Sullivan—left to become Brockton’s mayor. Gould said the committee and outside counsel worked on the contract for four years.

“Despite changing federal rulings and changes in cable TV viewing habits, I feel we have negotiated the best possible cable license for the people of Haverhill while also making sure we are able to take advantage of new technology, services and providers when they become available,” he said.

The $1.1 million—paid in $110,000 annual installments—for upgrades is dedicated to renovating and upgrading communications equipment in studios or at City Hall, as examples. Comcast will also continue providing communications, including data, video and telephone services to city offices and school buildings. The so-called “I-Net” package covers 33 buildings over 44 miles.

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