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The residents of Cheshire who switched from cable television to AT&T U-verse have been shut out of cable access programs, but that is going to change.
Bids were received earlier this month and Town officials state AT&T is reviewing the documentation before making its recommendation to the Town of Cheshire. The bids were between approximately $10,000 and $27,000, but there is no requirement to go with the lowest qualified bidder, as the costs are being reimbursed through AT&T. The equipment will be located in Town Hall and also at Cheshire High School, for channels 14 and 16, respectively. According to Town officials, AT&T will reimburse the Town upwards of $12,000 per channel, for a total cost of $24,000. As a worst case scenario, the Town would be looking at a $3,000 out-of-pocket expense for the equipment and technology, if AT&T determines the highest bidder is providing the best and most reliable equipment.
"It's important for people in the community, who cannot be reached by local cable access, have the chance to view it," explained Town Manager Michael Milone. "We want it to be available, and be more transparent and communicate with the community."
Customers who are familiar with AT&T's cable service might have noticed other town meetings on their set top box. Customers in Cheshire can view meetings from other towns, and those outside of Cheshire will also be able to view meetings broadcast on Ch. 14 and 16. Adding U-verse for little to no cost provides access to more residents of Cheshire, and also those outside of the town's borders.
"We want as many people as possible to see the meetings and announcements," Milone said.
According to a Dec. 2009 press release from AT&T, U-verse was in two million homes nationwide, and was available to more than 20 million homes across the country. It's unclear if those numbers have changed in the last year, as AT&T has not provided more recent data on its Web site. Also, the company did not disclose how many U-verse customers were in Cheshire, but it is believed to be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 homes, officials estimate.
"What better way to connect with residents than through the two cable access channels," Milone said. "A lot of residents have U-verse or are waiting to switch after the local channels are added."
Town officials explained that it would take two to six weeks for the company to review the proposals and make a recommendation. Given the recent long weekend for Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas holiday, a timetable for installation of the equipment could be the end of January or the beginning of February, officials explained.
Town Council and Board of Education meetings, and other events, are broadcast live on the two public access channels and often re-run in the weeks following. Town officials state that there will be no more required work from the individuals who record and broadcast the meetings and there would not be additional salary or employee time spent on providing U-verse customers access. Years ago, the deal with AT&T was not as beneficial to the Town, as the company was not willing to reimburse a majority of the costs and there was few, if any, customers when the service first began. Now, however, it was the right move for the Town, Milone stated, and financially viable as it continues to provide these services to the community.
"Residents should have access to these channels," Milone said.