Court hears Mediacom presentation

Posted September 8, 2020 at 1:35 pm

Clinton County Fiscal Court held a special call meeting last Thursday afternoon, September 3, with all members present, with the main issue dealing with the Mediacom cable system, or primarily many areas in the county that do not have cable or internet access offered.

Before fielding several questions from court members, a Mediacom representative gave an overview of the company’s workings and operations, basically in how they determine where cable lines are run to.

The representative said the company has built cable lines past 1,870 homes in the city and 2,200 in the county, or a 17 percent rate, which he called a “low percentage” of homes.

Mediacom has the cable franchise for both the City of Albany and the county, with the county’s agreement already having expired. He asked about the renewing of the franchise agreement with the county, which is still on hold.

The original franchise, which was non-exclusive for 15 years, calls for the cable company to provide access in areas that have at least 20 homes per linear mile.

One area that is in line for cable access is Abby Lane, which is near an existing line and has about 15 to 20 homes down the road from where the line ends.

The representative said the company would work with the county if development criteria was met and signatures of the homeowners were obtained.

The representative also discussed the need for high speed internet availability, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many students have to have access to the internet. He said the recent state money put in broadband was not going to help anybody and wireless broadband was needed.

Magistrate Mickey Riddle said how far would the county have to go to get signatures of potential customers who are near existing lines, and it was noted that in some cases, residents may have to “kick in” with some money to help pay for the cable/internet access.

Magistrate Gary Ferguson questioned how much the cost might be per resident to run extra lines to their homes, with the representative saying he wasn’t sure, but it would depend on the length of mileage and number of homes.

Judge/Executive Ricky Craig also questioned an area at Tobin Ridge where about 10 homes are located. He said an engineer had earlier told the fiscal court a few years back it could cost up to $1 million to build the line, although the existing line stops right behind the area.

The representative suggested that area also be resubmitted for consideration so another study could be done.

Magistrate Ray Marcum also asked the representative if the company had a map of the area the cable company currently serves in the county and asked if they could highlight the service areas.

Another area mentioned was in the Highway community on Hwy. 1351, where the cable line stops, but there are at least five houses “on down the road” from that location.

The Mediacom rep also said that area could be re-engineered and the company would take a look at it.

Magistrate Jerry Lowhorn also noted that the Lee’s Chapel area had a location where there were about 20 homes near where the cable line stops that do not have access to cable.

Magistrate Terry Buster also noted there were several areas in the third district that do not have Mediacom cable accessibility.

The representative told court members that due to the ongoing pandemic, internet is considered an “essential service” now.

Judge Craig also noted that under the previous administration, the fiscal court did not renew the franchise with Mediacom due to issues, including many homes not having access, as well as rising rates.

The judge noted it seemed that rates kept going up every few months.

The representative noted that all cable companies, several years ago, when the industry was deregulated, were charging fees to carry certain channels, such as movie channels, cable networks and sports channels, forcing cable companies to raise rates to cover those costs.

The representative again noted the franchise with the county had expired and they would be sending the county attorney a new franchise agreement to review.

A concern for many of the magistrates is the 15 year franchise term, which many felt it is too long.

The county does receive a five percent franchise fee and it was noted the contract was non-exclusive, meaning other cable companies would have a right to bid for a franchise.

The only other item of business on last week’s special meeting agenda was cash transfers.

The court, on separate votes, approved three such transfers, including: $4,000 from the Occupation Fund to the ambulance checking account; $15,000 from the 911 fund checking account to the jail checking account; and $17,000 from the Occupation fund to the general checking account.

The next regular meeting of Clinton Fiscal Court is scheduled for Thursday, September 17, at 5 p.m. at the courthouse. Due to COVID-19 health restrictions, the meeting will be closed to the general public but streamed live on the county judge’s Facebook page.