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After more than a year of planning and negotiation, AT&T U-verse subscribers are now able to watch the Town of Cheshire's two cable access channels from their homes.
The service went live last month, in time for the May 10 Town Council meeting, but there were hiccups with the audio feed. That has since been resolved, according to Town staff, and U-verse customers now have full access to both the local government channel as well as the Board of Education channel. Those channels were only carried on Cox Communication, the cable subscription service, but there was enough demand that AT&T was ready to install new equipment to split the signal. The cost was $9,990 for the Town and $9,990 for the Board of Education, but those costs were reimbursed by AT&T, according to Town officials.
"Now, we have that many more households we can reach," explained Town Manager Michael Milone. "A lot of people migrated to AT&T and couldn't get our programming. They felt they had the customer base to do this."
Milone explained that AT&T would not divulge exactly how many customers there were in Cheshire, but the number must have increased over the past few years. Initially, AT&T didn't appear to be interested in carrying the meetings, as it "didn't seem to be a worthwhile investment," Milone said. However, over the last year, the customer base increased and AT&T was ready to install its equipment.
"We don't know how many customers, but we think it's a significant number," Milone said.
There is no delay and U-verse customers will be able to watch meetings live as they happen. If it's airing on Channel 14 or Channel 16, the two public access channels on Cox, then it will be on U-verse as well. For those with the service who don't know how to access local government channels, Milone said it all begins on channel 99. AT&T has partnered with many towns in Connecticut, so from channel 99 on the U-verse box, residents will be able to select the Cheshire channels. There are also channels for others towns in the state as well.
"People can follow us even if they are not in town," Milone said. "People can watch any meeting, any where in the state that's integrated with U-verse."
AT&T paid for the equipment and installation costs, so there was a minimal impact on the town. The only costs that weren't reimbursed were staff time. With the addition of the U-verse equipment, the Town has also been able to gain the ability to stream content live on its website, which is only being utilized for the Town's channel at the moment. The first year of that service was paid for by AT&T during the installation of the U-verse equipment so, in future years, there would be a "nominal fee" if the service was to continue.
Even those without U-verse service can access the Web streaming from the Town's homepage. Depending on a user's Internet browser or configuration, a person might be prompted to download additional software to get the video to stream.
To view the public access channel online, visit www.cheshirect.org and click view Cheshire's local government access channel live.