FRAMINGHAM- Mayor Yvonne Spicer held a public hearing on Wednesday, April 18 regarding the upcoming cable television contracts with providers RCN and Comcast.
Framingham currently has three TV providers that display PEG (Public, Education, Government) channels: RCN, Verizon and Comcast.
In total, there are 10 public access channels in Framingham. Of these channels, only one is broadcast in high definition (HD). None of the channels have an electronic programming guide.
The Framingham Cable Advisory Committee sent out a survey both online and via paper. It received about 500 responses. Framingham has about 70,000 residents and more than 25,000 households.
Two trends in those responses included the fact that prices were too high and that RCN was doing a good job, said Annabelle Dodd, the chair of the 5-member Cable Advisory Committee.
Eighty percent of the responses said they want high-definition public access channels and an on-screen, electronic program guide, said Norma Shulman, one of the members of the Cable Advisory Committee.
Without an electronic programming guide, citizens are forced to go online to see the scheduled programs, she explained.
On the television itself, all the guide says is “local public programming.” Not only is this a nuisance to many, it is also a clear problem for certain members of the community, said residents who testified before the Mayor last night.
Ron Rego, a member of the Cable Advisory Committee who oversees the Government Channel for the City of Framingham, recalled a case of an elderly woman calling him and asking about the guide for the local programming. When he told her she needed to go online, she said that she couldn’t, as she didn’t have a computer.
“The people who need to watch us the most struggle the most,” he said.
Shulman read several of the comments included in the surveys. One citizen called it “absurd” that the local channels aren’t in HD. Another said they haven’t ‘cut the cord’ on their cable because they want the local programming so that they can keep up with local events.
David Hornfisher, who has lived in Framingham for more than 30 years, says that cable is probably “more than (he) spent on (his) first apartment.”
In addition, he noted many programs are being shot with HD cameras. However, when these programs are broadcast in standard definition, the quality is diminished, including the video shot by Framingham High students on the Education Channel.
Though the public survey has ended, Mayor Spicer encouraged anyone who wants to share their opinion regarding the cable television contract to send in a letter to her office, or to send her an email.
“It’s about communication, access and education. We can continue to communicate better with each other,” Spicer said.