HOULTON, Maine — By a unanimous vote Monday evening, the Houlton Town Council has approved a plan to bring a second television franchise to the town.
Pioneer Broadband, an Internet company based in Houlton, plans to expand its line of Internet and telephone services to include cable television. That service will be provided to homes via fiber optic cable that was recently installed within town limits.
The fiber expansion project includes 54 miles of new fiber optic lines with the potential to serve 3,500 homes and businesses. Completion of the new network is expected by early fall. This project in Houlton is privately funded by Pioneer Broadband.
The town currently has a “non-exclusive” franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable, but is not precluded from having a second provider, Houlton Town Manager Butch Asselin said. The town receives revenue Time Warner Cable as part of the franchise agreement.
Similarly, Pioneer Broadband will be provide revenue to the town based on the number of clients that sign up for its service. The contract stipulates 5 percent of the Company’s subscriber revenues will be paid to the town as part of the franchise fee.
Asselin said that the contract Pioneer Broadband provided to the council was identical to the one Time Warner has with the town.
According to Tim McAfee, chief operating officer for Pioneer Broadband, two packages will be offered — a local plan featuring 20 channels starting at $24.95 per month and a basic plan with 56 channels for $59.95 a month.
Premium channels like HBO can also be added.
Subscribers are not required to have an Internet plan through Pioneer Broadband, but a fiber optic line must be installed in the home. Discounts for bundled services will be offered, however.
“The benefit for us to have this is to attract more customers to our network,” McAfee said. “Television is something that we are already doing in Sherman. And since we have provided a fiber optic network in Houlton, we figured we would utilize some of the services we already have in place.”
McAfee said his company was shooting for Sept. 1 start-up date for cable TV.
“We want to keep the price low, so there may be some channels that we will not offer,” he explained. “Content providers make us operators carry a bunch of channels that we do not want and that jacks the price up. I think the local package will be the one that most folks buy.”
DVR service will also be available. Several of the channels will be in high definition (HD).
“We are also offering free of charge access to www.WatchTVEverywhere.com which allows customers access to their favorite content via the Internet,” McAfee said. “Some channels allow live content and others offer VOD (video on demand).”
The service will be available to every home within the town limits and extends out to portions of the Hogan, B, County and White Settlement roads.