GROTON — Members of the Cable Advisory Committee expressed optimism at its Dec. 14 meeting about the prospect that the town’s new cable television and internet provider should have the last of its connections completed in time for the end of the year.
“We have no complaints,” said committee Chairman Gabe Mucci of Verizon’s activities so far. “They have met all their obligations so far and with only a few weeks left until the deadline, they continue to be on track.”
The Board of Selectmen signed a contract with Verizon last June after months of negotiations by the Cable Advisory Committee and Town Manager Mark Haddad. There had been some delay after that when the town was placed on a waiting list for connections to the telecommunication giant’s many high-speed services.
Contract negotiations with Verizon began in 2007 when the Cable Advisory Committee first submitted to the state’s Department of Telecommunications and Energy (DTE) an Issuing Authority Report (IAR) that included a list of demands for concessions and an outline of the town’s expectations of any agreement arrived at with Verizon.
For its part, Verizon’s range of services had been planned as part of an overall upgrade of the company’s infrastructure in Groton, including replacement of all wiring with fiber optics. Now in place, high-speed cable service and a program called FiOS-TV — touted as being able to deliver “lifelike picture, hyper-real color and flawless sound” — is expected to be offered to all residents in direct competition with the town’s other provider, Charter Communications.
Included among Verizon’s contractual obligations to the town is providing cable access to a number of public buildings, including Town Hall, Library, Senior Center, and Middle School, as well as making available three cable channels.
So far, said Program Drector Robert Colman, installation of equipment and connections are “not quite completed” with new equipment installed at the television studio, but connections to remote locations have yet to be made.
The three television stations will include the Groton Channel on Channel 41, a local government station on Cannel 40, and Channel 39, the purpose of which has not been assigned as yet.
The new equipment and channels will not have come soon enough, as Colman told committee members at their meeting of Dec. 14 that a new locally produced television show has recently made its debut.
Produced by high school freshman James Russell, “According to Jimmy” is planned as a biweekly talk show featuring interviews with local personalities. The first show has already been produced and has begun airing.
Committee members also discussed a draft for the community bulletin board feature displayed on local access cable channels when no other programming is being run.
The draft — issued through the Board of Selectmen’s office — is an attempt to draw guidelines for groups wishing to take advantage of the service. Intended to promote community events, the draft policy requires that the content of the messages be noncommercial and subject to review by selectmen.
Though brief, a key element of the policy involves religious institutions, as well as private institutions of which there are a number in town, including the Groton School and Lawrence Academy.
In regards to private institutions, the policy states that they may use the community bulletin board to post messages, but they cannot be used to recruit students. Messages must also promote events and services that are available to the public at large.
More problematic to members of the Advisory Committee was the policy with regard to religious institutions that simply states “religious service schedules are not allowed on the community bulletin board.”
Wishing to give the benefit of the doubt to those who had prepared the policy, Mucci suggested that wording in the cover letter about the draft policy stated that policies of other towns had been used as examples in framing Groton’s own policy. Those other towns, Mucci guessed, could have been much larger communities than Groton with many more churches generating a proliferation of scheduling that may very well have swamped community bulletin boards. In that case, barring them from using the service made some sense.
But Groton does not have that many churches and such a scenario was unlikely, thus committee members decided to recommend against barring church services from being posted in their comments to selectmen.