PEPPERELL -- Selectmen approved the transfer of control of the cable-television license of Charter Communications, Inc., to Comcast Corps. during a hearing Aug. 14.
The hearing was held to consider the change of control based on review of Comcast's managerial, technical, financial and legal ability to operate the cable system pursuant to the existing Charter license due to expire in October 2021. In addition, selectmen wanted to hear about Comcast's commitment to community programming and educational and governmental access.
"I know Comcast meets all the criteria you have to look at when considering this transaction," said Thomas Cohan, director of government relations at Charter Communications.
The transition of cable providers is part of a larger pending Comcast and Charter Communications transfer. Comcast wants to acquire Charter's customers in 53 Massachusetts towns in addition to several towns in other New England states.
In exchange, Charter will get a cluster of Time Warner customers in the Midwest that Comcast will be purchasing from Time Warner in a separate negotiation. Both deals are contingent upon Federal Communications Commission approval.
Both companies hope to start the transfer by the end of the year, but a concrete date will be decided after the FCC decision.
Selectmen, Lawrence Library Director Debra Spratt and Richard Potts, president of Pepperell Community Media, Inc.
"We are prepared to say tonight that we will adhere to all contractual obligations that Charter entered into with the town of Pepperell," said Tim Murnane, Comcast's vice president of external affairs in the Greater Boston area.
If the transfers occur, Charter customers will be able to keep their current subscriptions for the time being, but eventually will be contacted about choosing Comcast packages.
Pepperell customers will still be able to view the Pepperell public-access channel.
Murnane said details on whether customers will be able to keep Charter cable boxes or have to change to Comcast boxes are unclear at this point in negotiations.
Spratt said, "In trying to get rates I was told that your rates change daily and that's a little disconcerting."
There are different marketing initiatives, Murnane answered, which cause prices to change frequently.
Potts wanted to make sure Comcast will honor the annual flag-raising in Pepperell that Charter has done over the years.
Murnane said he assured Potts he will try his best to maintain community traditions after Charter leaves.
Comcast will offer two community programs to Pepperell. On the annual Comcast Cares Day, the company brings employees to town to volunteer their help. Another program is a scholarship for high-school seniors. The Comcast Leaders and Achievers Award recognizes a student's community service and academic achievement. Since 2001, 21,000 scholarships have been awarded nationwide.
Customers can direct cable questions to the Comcast Boston area headquarters at 330 Billerica Road in Chelmsford.
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