Cable company to hear concernsPublished 12:15am Thursday, March 28, 2013
NATCHEZ — Residents who have concerns or questions about their Cable ONE TV service can voice them tonight at the Natchez City Council Chambers.
The city and the county are hosting a joint public forum at 5:30 p.m. to allow residents to give feedback or ask questions to John Hilbert, Cable ONE’s general manager for the Natchez office.
County and city officials will also be attending the meeting, Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith said.
Smith, who is chair of the city’s utilities committee, said a consulting company currently conducting audits of the city’s and county’s franchise agreements with Cable ONE suggested hosting the meeting.
“People can address their concerns directly to the source,” Smith said.
The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted in August to extend its contract with Cable ONE to allow the city to explore its options of cable service. Smith said it was also to allow the city and county cable agreements to expire at the same time.
The public forum, Smith said, allows the city and the county to survey residents and their preference for cable service.
The forum and the audit are in preparation for negotiations to renew the franchise agreements for both the city and the county, Smith said.
The audit is to ensure the company has properly paid the city and the county over the course of the agreements.
Cable ONE pays 5 percent of gross subscriber revenue each to the city and county.
The audit company, Local Government Services of Dahlonega, Ga., will draft franchise renewal agreements and negotiate with Cable ONE on the terms of the agreements.
Smith previously said a representative from Local Government Services had reviewed the city’s franchise agreement and discovered things that needed a second look. For example, she said, the agreement has no provision outlining the late payment of franchise fees, the possibility of Cable ONE paying the audit fee in the event it owes the city money and certain customer-service issues.
A formula is used to calculate the city’s share of the revenue from Cable ONE, and Smith has the audit company felt the city was getting paid a little less than it should.
An independent audit of the cable agreement is beneficial, Smith said, because the city does not have the knowledge to know what to look for in the agreement.
Smith said she encourages residents to attend the public forum tonight so their input can be heard and considered when the city and the county are negotiating new agreements.
“And they can hear where Cable ONE is headed and talk to them about channel upgrades, price increases and anything else they want.”