By Joe B. Coates ([email protected])
Wesson aldermen voted Tuesday night during the board’s regular monthly meeting to allow the town’s current cable television provider to abandon service on June 1 . Bailey Cable, who built the town’s current system and has been the sole provider for over 20 years, has agreed to provide its 120 or so subscribers with free service during the month of May. The agreement between the town and Bailey was brokered by cable franchise consultant Greg Fender.
Mayor Alton Shaw explained to the near-capacity crowd that over the past two years the town has attempted several times officially to work with Bailey on a contract that was signed in October of 2006. The agreement called for Bailey to upgrade its equipment and services to meet new FCC standards for digital cable and the upcoming national switch to all digital in February of 2009. The company asked for and received an extension in July of 2007, and then failed to show any progress on the upgrade to the town by March of this year, Shaw said.
Bailey representative Bob Garner explained that his company has faced an uphill battle to upgrade services, including relocating the converter station to higher ground, problems with the height of the AT&T wires on utility poles that had to be corrected in order for Bailey to meet minimum distance requirements from telephone and power lines, constant changes in FCC regulations leading up to the national digital conversion in February and the high cost of purchasing new equipment to meet the standards versus the number of subscribers in Wesson. Bailey purchased two acres of land from Bobby Britt several months ago that would have been the best place to relocate the converter station, Garner explained, but the other obstacles have made justifying the move very difficult.
Garner also advised that the other seven cable systems his company operates have been effectively subsidizing the Wesson system for several years, but that Bailey has made several improvements in programming during the lifetime of the system.
Several customers of Bailey present at the meeting said that they had had very little problems with the service over the years and were in support of the company remaining as the town’s cable provider. Some said that they had even tried satellite, but felt that Bailey’s service was a better deal.
Mayor Shaw indicated that two other companies, Telepak and Cable One were in holding talks with the town to see if either one could become the next provider. Garner said that after June 1 the company will begin removing the system from Wesson. The next company could be in and operating by September 1, Shaw indicated.
After nearly an hour of discussion between and among the aldermen, the cable company representatives and several local residents, the resolution passed, and a vote was taken to end discussion and move on.
The remainder of the board’s actions will be covered in next week’s print edition of the Courier due out Wednesday.