After nearly two years of heated debate, Avenue TV Cable and Century Communications have won new contracts with the city.
The City Council on Monday unanimously approved 11-year contracts for the two cable companies with the requirement that they provide their current services plus high-speed Internet access, fiber optics and additional public access channels.
Avenue's contract will require $3.5 million in upgrades, which will mean increased rates to subscribers, starting next month. Century, which is part of a larger franchise, will not increase rates.
At the council meeting, some residents complained that they will be paying higher rates for services residents don't necessary need or want. Others objected to a 2% franchise tax increase.
But Mayor Jim Friedman said the franchise tax hike will pay for new government and school channels and that both cable packages result from public forums held over the past 23 months. The council, he said, is providing what residents said they want.
Several council members asked the companies to provide discount programs for seniors, either subsidized services or "Senior Lifeline" packages of Channels 2 through 12 and PBS.
Stephen George, general manager of Avenue TV Cable, said underwriting discount services would overwhelm his other subscribers.
"Probably 30% of our market base is seniors," he said. "We would be looking at a basic rate increase of 1 to 1 1/2 dollars to the rest of our subscriber base."