Town seeks more TV equipment for public access station

SOUTHWICK – The town is considering seeking equipment upgrades for its cable access channel from Comcast.
The Cable Advisory Committee met with the Board of Selectmen this week to discuss its options for funding new technology that would greatly improve Channel 15. The big question, said committee member Robert Horacek, is how much the town wants to charge for a user fee.
“Right now the fee is ¾ of a percent,” said Horacek. “We have the flexibility to charge zero or we can charge five-percent.”
Dennis Clark, who has taken over the town’s cable access channel since the retirement of Art Boissoneault, said they are hoping Comcast will assist with purchasing new equipment to bring the channel up to date.
“We haven’t had anything new since 2008,” Clark said. “It’s obsolete.”
To bring Channel 15 completely up to speed would cost about $43,000, said Clark.
“I can cut it down to the minimum then add on later,” he said. “It would be $16,391.”
The equipment would allow for scrolling notices on the channel, including school closings and emergency notifications.
“And it can be done remotely,” said Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart.
The $16,000 would cover just the mechanicals and an additional $6,000 would be needed for software.
Clark said he hopes beefing up the channel will create more of a demand from viewers for additional programming.
The Board discussed the possibility of increasing the fee slightly to one percent but did not vote on the matter.
Last year, the town purchased the electronic billboard using Comcast fee funds. Westfield Comcast customers pay a three-percent user fee, and Northampton residents pay the full five-percent and has three cable access channels and a studio at the high school.

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