City of Natchez, Cable One work to resolve issues on final agreement

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 30, 2001

City Attorney Walter Brown and Cable One Area Manager Bobby McCool will meet today to discuss issues that must resolved before a longterm franchise is issued to the cable company.

&uot;We’re hoping to get an agreement ready by the Oct. 23 deadline,&uot;&160;Brown said.

Cable One’s franchise with the City of Natchez was due to expire on July 11. But on June 26 the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted to temporarily extend the franchise while the city continued negotiating with the company. The temporary franchise will expire Oct. 23.

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A long-term franchise would probably be for 15 years, Brown said, although the Board of Aldermen could set it for any length of time.

Issues to be discussed include:

— The possible addition of a &uot;basic&uot; tier of channels. As it now stands, cable customers pay for channels 2 through 59, not including premium or pay-per-view channels. A basic tier would give customers the option of only receiving channels 2 through 13 for a lower rate.

&uot;A number of people have called requested a basic tier,&uot; Brown said. McCool said Tuesday that few people have requested such a tier but that the issue would be discussed Thursday.

— The public access channel. &uot;It’s not being fully utilized,&uot;&160;Brown said. &uot;It could be used for lots of different functions that would be good for them (Cable One) and the public.&uot;

— Reception. Brown noted that static and other reception problems have been a problem on some stations.

But Alderman Jake Middleton noted that since Natchez is about 80 to 100 miles away from such regional centers as Baton Rouge and Jackson, reception of those channels is bound to be less clear than that of other channels.

&uot;You think that’s bad, put up an antenna and see how much you can get,&uot; Middleton said. &uot;It just has to do with where Natchez is located. But I&160;understand that with digital cable, the picture is much more clear.&uot;

— Programming, or the types of networks offered. For example, Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux, herself an educator, said she would like to see more educational channels offered.

&uot;I’d like to see more channels like the History Channel International and the Biography Channel,&uot;&160;Arceneaux said. &uot;A lot is available.&uot;

McCool said that Cable One’s channel lineup will change in the foreseeable future, although details of that change were not available as of press time.

But Brown acknowledged that the cost of purchasing such programming is going up. &uot;It’s up to the (cable) operator, and it depends on cost,&uot; he said.

— Technology. Cable One has recently installed fiber optic cable and other technologies necessary to offer digital cable to Natchez.

Digital cable should be available to all of Natchez within two weeks. Those who subscribe to digital cable receive a digital receiver free for 12 months. After that, they would pay $8.95 a month for a receiver, in addition to their regular cable rate.

Digital customers will be able to access dozens more movie and sports pay-per-view channels and audio music channels than they currently receive with regular cable.

&uot;We are signing up 100 people a day&uot; for digital cable in Natchez, McCool said. He added that cable rates are not expected to go up to pay for the system upgrades.

Digital cable will not be available in Vidalia until the company finds a way to extend fiber optic cable across the Mississippi River, he said.