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Riverhead Town, Cablevision close in on deal to preserve senior discount

Optimum Cablevision

A new, proposed franchise agreement between Cablevision and Riverhead Town will retain an existing 15 percent discount for senior citizens. 

The agreement will also provide the town more than $100,000 in grants for new equipment, such as cameras and infrastructure improvements, related to the town’s broadcasts of meetings in Town Hall, officials said Thursday.

As part of the proposed 10-year agreement, Cablevision also plans to give the town another $5,000 grant to provide addition WiFi upgrades at the town senior citizen center in Aquebogue, and along the riverfront boardwalk in downtown for people who have Cablevision’s Optimum WiFi.

“It will run from Peconic Avenue to the Atlantis Aquarium,” Deputy Town Attorney Dan McCormick said of the boardwalk WiFi.

The board discussed the proposed Cablevision agreement at a special meeting Thursday morning with Joan Gilroy, Cablevision’s director of government affairs. The board voted to schedule an April 5 public hearing on the franchise agreement.

The previous 10-year agreement expired in 2012. The town and Cablevision have been negotiating a new agreement for the past few years.

“The biggest issue for us was to preserve the 15-percent discount for the seniors,” Supervisor Sean Walter said, adding that Cablevision wanted to reduce it to 10 percent.

Ms. Gilroy confirmed that.

“The discount applies to not only ‘expanded basic’ cable, but also to new installations and upgrades of equipment,” Mr. McCormick said.

The $100,000 grant is subject to approval from the state Public Service Commission. The proposed agreement is not yet available to the public to read, although it will be prior to the public hearing, Mr. McCormick said.

The franchise fee the town charges Cablevision can be up to 5 percent, according to federal law.

In 2014, the last year the stats were available, the town collected $849,369 in franchise fees from Cablevision.

However, Cablevision charges that money back to its subscribers and clearly spells out on its bills a separate charge due to the franchise fee, as it is permitted to by law.

A franchise agreement is basically the town charging Cablevision for the use of right-of-ways for use in placing its poles, wires and other equipment, Mr. McCormick said.

The contract will require the town to film the regular board meetings for broadcast rather than Cablevision, as is done now, and will allow for streaming online broadcasts as well as the capability to stream broadcasts live, Mr. McCormick said.

The Town Board’s regular meetings are currently filmed by Cablevision and are shown pre-recorded. The town films work sessions, Planning Board meetings and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings, which are shown on Channel 22, the public access channel.

The regular meetings also can be seen on YouTube, which are linked from the town website. The town doesn’t broadcast any meetings live, as is done in some other towns.

The senior discount applies to households where the head of the household is 62 or older and either owns property and currently receives senior property tax discounts; Section 8 housing subsidies or is eligible for senior citizen discounts, according to the previous franchise agreement.

Photo Caption: A Cablevision Optimum truck parked in 2014. (Credit: Paul Squire)

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