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City council approves contract to start cable franchise negotiation

Back in May 2015, the city of Warren entered into a cable franchise agreement with what was then Atlantic Broadband.

The agreement sets about $100,000 annually in revenue for the city.

But what is it?

And can a renegotiated contract generate more revenue for the city?

Those were two questions answered by Mike Roberts, an attorney with the Cohen Law Group, during a recent City Council meeting.

City Manager Mike Holtz said the city’s current agreement is set to expire in 2025 and recommended hiring Cohen as outside council for the negotiation.

He told the Times Observer that the revenue from the agreement was $108,542 in 2020, $109,229 in 2021, $103,971 in 2022 and $93,019 in 2023.

Roberts told council that the franchise process is a federally-implemented procedure to allow cable operators to “operate the public right of way with their facilities.”

In exchange for that permission, he said federal law allows up to five percent of gross revenue received from subscribers to be returned to the municipality.

Part of the negotiation, he stressed, will be to settle on how gross revenue is defined.

Roberts proposed that the firm undertake two tasks for the city – review the past performance of the current agreement as well as look at what future cable-related needs might be.

“Looking at the current agreement, the major priorities we would see… is expanding the definition of gross revenue” and “fighting to retain the rights that the city already has,” he said.

Atlantic Broadband is now Breezeline and Roberts said that the firm’s negotiation and policy practices have changed along with the name.

He also told council that the current agreement has 20 revenue sources while the law group has identified a list of 27.

Any agreement with Breezeline, he added, would not be exclusive.

“Competition is wide open should any other cable (provider) want to come into the city,” he said.

Council subsequently took action to affirm the proposal with the Cohen Law Group.

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