TV/Cable Board forwards Optimum franchise renewal agreement to council for consideration

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon’s TV/Cable board voted to recommend that city council renew a franchise agreement with Optimum.

The current franchise agreement is set to expire on June 30, 2023. Optimum is a U.S.-based telecommunications company owned and operated by Altice USA and was formerly known as Suddenlink. Council will likely consider a first reading of the draft of the franchise renewal agreement at its next regular meeting June 15.

At the TV/Cable Board’s June 7 meeting, City Recorder Randy Sanders read a section of the ordinance, highlighting the purpose of the franchise agreement.

“The City grants to the company the nonexclusive right and privilege, within all areas of the City of Buckhannon, West Virginia, as described in Attachment A hereto, to construct, maintain, and operate in, or, over and under the present and future public streets, alleys, rights-of-way and public places within the City, such as towers, poles, lines, cables, wiring and all related equipment for the purpose of receiving, amplifying and distributing television, radio, audio, video or any other telecommunications signal or service within said City and to inhabitants hereof,” Sanders read.

In a previous My Buckhannon article, councilman David McCauley reminded the community that the city does not set rates or govern programming.

“Before the folks in the community get fired up – because I’ve dealt with this ever since I came to Buckhannon 40 years ago – we, as a governmental entity, and as the franchising entity, cannot regulate rates, and we cannot regulate programming, so there’s very little municipalities can do,” McCauley said.

In addition, Mayor Robbie Skinner said the franchise renewal agreement “is basically an allowance [for Altice USA/Optimum] to do business in our city.”

The draft proposal states that the proposed agreement will last for the next 10 years.

“By mutual consent, the Company shall have the option to renew this Franchise for an additional period not to exceed 10 years,” the agreement states. “Should the Company desire to exercise this option, it shall notify the city in writing, not less than three months prior to expiration of this franchise.”

The draft agreement must undergo three readings prior to implementation. The first reading is likely to take place during the next city council meeting June 15. The dates of future readings of the ordinance will be announced soon.

The city and county have separate franchise agreements with Optimum that run on different timelines. The county’s franchise renewal agreement with the company – then still known as Suddenlink — had been set to expire in 2020, so the Upshur County Commission adopted an ordinance granting a non-exclusive franchise renewal agreement with the telecommunications company.

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