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PI officials aim to expand cable access through contract negotiations with Spectrum

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Presque Isle city officials are currently in negotiations with Spectrum in hopes of increasing the amount of homes in the city that have access to cable TV and internet services.

Under the city’s previous 10-year contract with Spectrum, which has expired, the company was required to provide cable services to rural areas in which there were 20 homes per mile. City officials now hope to enact another 10-year contract with Spectrum and expand cable service in areas with less than 20 homes per mile to allow more residents to take advantage of internet opportunities that cable TV packages provide.

“This part of the contract only applies to cable TV, but having access to cable is what allows more people to also have internet,” City Manager Martin Puckett said. “Expanding coverage areas could benefit people who operate their own business from home or who seek out higher education courses online.”

This past year, the city hired Sewall, an Old Town-based forestry, mapping and engineering company, to provide accurate mapping of all rural homes that currently have no access to cable TV. They found that many homes on Central Drive, Brewer Road, State Park Road, Niles Road, Centerline Road, Conant Road and Parsons Road do not fall under Spectrum’s required service area due to there being less than 20 homes per mile in those areas.

Puckett said that discussions with Spectrum are still underway but that the negotiations are one part of many efforts to expand people’s access to cable TV and internet in central Aroostook. Just two years ago, the city received a $26,973 grant from the ConnectME Authority, a state program that aims to bring affordable broadband services to underserved rural regions.

The funding allowed Presque Isle to partner with the Town of Fort Fairfield to have Pioneer Broadband expand internet services to the Fort Road and Maple Grove Road in Fort Fairfield. Puckett noted that the city also uses funds generated from a tax on cable subscriptions to set aside money for cable service related grants and to maintain the equipment used to televise council meetings on Public Access Channel 1302 and live stream online.

During the last several weeks, that equipment has not been able to provide live TV and online meeting coverage due to an operational issue with the component of the software that sends signals from the camera to the Spectrum cable. This has left the council unable to broadcast both Wednesday’s regular council meeting and a special session on Sept. 27.

Puckett said that Spectrum technicians are working to fix the problem as soon as possible and that when they tried to install another cable unit, they found it incompatible with the camera system.

In other business, the councilors agreed to hold two budget workshops for the upcoming 2019 city budget on Wednesday, Oct. 10, and Wednesday, Oct. 24. Both meetings will be open to the public, with their locations and times not yet determined.

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