Dear Members and Friends of the Greenburgh Community,
The latest version of the Cable Franchise Agreement by and between the Town of Greenburgh and Verizon New York Inc., dated September 8, 2006, is available on the Town of Greenburgh Web site, www.GreenburghNY.com, under News & Information, and through the following direct link: 2006sep08 v6 Verizon Greenburgh Cable Franchise Agreement.
The document will be the subject of a Public Hearing on Wednesday, September 13, 2006, at Greenburgh Town Hall, 177 Hillside Avenue, White Plains, NY 10607. The meeting will start at 7:15 PM.
This will be the second Public Hearing on Verizon’s Cable Franchise Agreement. An earlier version of the agreement was the subject of a Public Hearing that started on August 9, 2006, and ended at 1:00 AM August 10th. There was considerable public comment, primarily from Verizon employees, urging the Town Board (which consists of the Town Supervisor and four member Town Council) to vote for the agreement as written that night/morning. Although the Town Supervisor, Paul Feiner, was willing to vote for the agreement “as written” to start cable competition in the town, Councilwoman Eddie Mae Barnes, Councilman Steve Bass, Councilwoman Diana Juettner, and I, constituting the Town Council, recognized serious flaws with the agreement and decided not to vote on the document that evening.
The Greenburgh Town Council received considerable criticism for not following Supervisor Feiner’s lead. Wanting competition and the best timely contract possible, the Town Council charged me with negotiating with Verizon representatives to improve the agreement. For more than 12 hours, I met with John Figliosi, a representative from the NYS Public Service Commission, and, separately, with consultants from Verizon, both in person and by conference call. Additional meetings will be conducted this week, including a meeting with Cablevision representatives. Town Clerk Alfreda Williams, Deputy Town Attorney David Fried and Town Council Aide Gil Kaminer offered invaluable help before, during and after these meetings.
Although there are some details that still need to be finalized and unique technical public access distribution issues that must be resolved, the intense negotiations have resulted in the production of the Franchise Agreement available on the town's Web site.
Key differences between the attached document and the document that was before the Town Board for the August 9, 2006, Public Hearing include:
1. The agreement now pertains to the unincorporated area of the Town of Greenburgh. The prior version was unenforceable because it applied to the “incorporated area (entire existing territorial limits)” of the Town of Greenburgh, which includes the six villages of the town. The previous document was unenforceable because franchises in each village must be approved by the appropriate Village Board, not the Town Board.
2. Language has been added that the provisions contained in the document survive any federal or state legislative changes unless those changes specifically ban continued implementation of the agreement’s terms. This addition ensures that the unincorporated area of the Town of Greenburgh (the area to which this agreement applies) will continue to have cable channels for local Public, Education, and Government (PEG) use even if the Franchisee (in this case, Verizon) is no longer required to provide them by law. With the negotiated rewording, for us to lose PEG channels, the legislative change would have to specifically ban the Franchisee from providing those channels to the town. Similarly, the Town of Greenburgh receives substantial fees and grants from this agreement and would now continue to do so unless subsequent legislative changes specifically ban such payments.
3. The definition of Gross Payments has been modified to ensure “pay per view” and “video on demand” are included.
4. Definitions embedded in the document are now referenced in the definition section with a citation where to find the definition.
5. Language has been added to ensure municipal property or a subscriber’s premises damaged or destroyed by the Franchisee shall be repaired or replaced at the Franchisee’s expense.
6. Two additional PEG Access Interconnection sites (which have the capability of live cablecasting) have been added to accommodate the size, complexity and programming needs of the town.
7. Due to the size and complexity of the town, with six villages, a very large unincorporated area, ten school districts, and school district boundaries overlapping two or more municipal borders, another PEG channel will be added to provide overflow capability for the simultaneous live broadcasting of village and town meetings, and even two live school board meetings. The technical features of this significant enhancement continue to be developed.
8. Five additional municipal buildings, including two school buildings, will be wired and provided Basic Service cable TV at no cost.
9. An annual “Performance Review” has been added to ensure the Franchisee is complying with the terms of the agreement.
10. Language has been added so that defective PEG equipment will be replaced at no cost to the town.
11. Language has been added that it is the Franchisee’s responsibility to make recommendations in writing to the town should the town not be producing suitable signals for high quality PEG cablecasts.
12. Language that could have been used to limit the number of subscribers included in the “Annual PEG Grant” calculation was stricken. Now all subscribers are included in the calculation.
13. Language was added to unambiguously state that Annual PEG Grants accrue beginning on the Effective Date of the agreement and continue to accrue, and that all accrued amounts must be paid once Cablevision is held to a comparable franchise agreement.
14. There is now a 9% penalty should the Franchisee pay the Franchise Fee late. Previously there was no penalty.
15. The period of limitation for the town to recover Franchise Fees has been increased from three years to six years.
16. The period of time the Franchisee’s books must be retained to provide the town an opportunity to examine them for compliance with the agreement has been increased from three years to six years.
17. The excess liability or umbrella coverage has been increased from $5,000,000 to $10,000,000.
18. Language has been stricken indicating the town must “request” indemnification (implying the Franchisee could decide to deny indemnification) and language has been added stating that the town will be indemnified if timely notice is provided the Franchisee.
19. The agreement was changed to ensure the town is indemnified if the town’s employees, consultants, agents, third parties, etc., cause liability, damage or claims unless those employees, consultants, agents, third parties, etc., were acting in their official capacity on behalf of the town. In the prior agreement, the employees, agents, third parties, etc. need not have been acting in their official capacity on behalf of the town. The fact that they were employees, consultants, etc. for the town was enough to eliminate the town’s indemnification.
20. Language was added to allow the town to commence a Public Hearing on non-compliance should the Franchisee not timely remedy the non-compliance. In the prior document, the Franchisee projected how long it would take to remedy a violation and there was no recourse for the town if the projection was not timely.
21. Language was added to ensure the town could receive relief deemed appropriate by a court. In the prior document, only the Franchisee (i.e., Verizon) was entitled to such relief in a dispute over the agreement.
22. Language was added that a violation must be timely cured to avoid penalties, fines, forfeitures or revocation of the Franchise, even if the violation was caused by “good faith error” and resulted in minimal negative impacts on subscribers.
23. Language was added to require a Town Board resolution to amend any provision of the agreement after the agreement takes effect.
24. The term “material provisions” has been defined as meaning the terms set forth in Article 5 (PEG Services) and Article 6 (Franchise Fees). This definition is still the subject of discussion. The town will likely ask that the definition be expanded.
The above list was provided to facilitate your review of the Franchise Agreement and to explain why the Town Council did not vote for the previous version of the document at the last Public Hearing. There is more to do. We hope you will have an opportunity to read the Franchise Agreement and attend the September 13, 2006, 7:15 PM meeting at Town Hall to share your comments. If you cannot attend the meeting, you may email your comments to me prior to the meeting and I will share them with the other members of the Town Board. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Cable TV competition is coming to Greenburgh!
Francis Sheehan, Councilman
Town of Greenburgh