Urbana to weigh 10-year franchise deal with Comcast

Urbana to weigh 10-year franchise deal with Comcast

URBANA – Council members next week are scheduled to discuss a 10-year cable franchise agreement with Comcast that renews the cable company's right to use city property for its infrastructure.

The Urbana City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.

Comcast would agree to give 5 percent of its gross revenues from the area to the city of Urbana through the duration of the contract plus another 2 percent to fund the city's capital costs in operating its public access channel. That would total about $39,000 monthly, City Attorney Ron O'Neal said during the previous city council meeting.

The contract does not exclude other cable companies from requesting a franchise agreement with the city.

Council members discussed the contract during Monday's meeting, but delayed a vote until next week to allow the city's cable commission time to review the contract.

The agreement also allows the city an opportunity to request a fifth public channel. It currently operates four in cooperation with Champaign, the University of Illinois and Parkland College.

Missing from the contract is a legal commitment from Comcast to keep open its local customer service office in Urbana. Debra Piscola, Comcast's regional director of government affairs and franchising, told council members that "there are no plans to discontinue operations there."

The Champaign City Council in August voted down a cable franchise agreement with Comcast. The issue for some Champaign council members during the meeting was that the agreement, which the city negotiated independently of Urbana, contained only a 4 1/2-year commitment from Comcast to keep that office open.

The document Urbana City Council members will review on Monday makes no reference to the local office. O'Neal said on Monday that a survey of Urbana Comcast customers showed that the customer service office was not among their top priorities.

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