Tupelo council renews Comcast contract

TUPELO – Comcast Cable has a new franchise agreement with the city after nearly a decade with no formal contract.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a renewal on its expired contract with the cable provider.
The city had let its previous agreement with Comcast expire about eight years ago, although it continued to allow the company to provide service to residents and continued to collect franchise fees.
A contract almost was approved in March, but lingering questions and concerns delayed it until this week during the council’s final meeting before the current four-year term ends.
“I’m glad the city’s finally addressing it,” said Ward 1 Councilman Dick Hill. “I’ve personally been working on it 71/2 years, it seems.”
The new contract simply formalizes the deal for a five-year term. It is non-exclusive, meaning other cable providers can enter the Tupelo market and also offer television, telephone and Internet service. And it does not affect cable services or rates for customers, a point highlighted by Ward 3 Councilman Smith Heavner, who begrudgingly supported the contract.
“I have been against this for a long time,” Heavner said. “It doesn’t give us any authority to lower the price … ; when they raise the price, don’t call me and jump on me.”
As part of the agreement, Comcast will continue to provide free cable service to the schools, offer free television access for educational and political programming and continue to improve service and respond to customer concerns and complaints.
The company also will keep paying the city’s franchise fee, which is equal to 2 percent of the company’s annual gross revenues from the franchise area. Although the company pays the fees to the city, customers absorb the cost in their monthly cable bills.
The city earned $135,000 in franchise fees last year, which went directly into the general fund.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal