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Waldoboro resident sends legislative letter

By Christine Simmonds | Apr 22, 2021
Photo by: Christine Simmonds Reuben Mahar of Waldoboro

Waldoboro — Reuben Mahar of Waldoboro, working with the Select Board, wants legislators to change a proposed bill to address the reality of modern technology trends.

The legislation is LD 920, titled “An Act To Promote Oversight of and Competitive Parity among Video Service Providers.”

Mahar was approved to represent the Waldoboro Select Board in a testimonial letter he sent to nine legislators, requesting changes to the bill.

Mahar is the chair of the Waldoboro Communications and Technology committee. “Our mandate has been to do everything we can to get broadband to the residents of Waldoboro that do not have it,” Mahar said.

More recently, the committee has also been assisting residents with other technology as well. The committee deals with anything that brings a wire and a service to your house, Mahar said. That includes cable and internet.

“LD 920 intertwines with a lot of that,” Mahar said. The proposed legislation levels the playing field. Mahar wants it to do more than that, though.

While Mahar admits LD 920 has a lot of moving parts, the main focus of the current bill is expanding cable franchise fees and making them more accurate.

Franchise fees are a fixed percentage of the cable bill that is paid to municipalities by the providers. Currently those fees are only applied to cable television.

The fees then go into a general fund, and the municipality uses them at their discretion. In Waldoboro, cable franchise fees currently account for $33,745 in revenue yearly.

The changes Mahar is proposing to this bill will address a reality of modern technology: more people are cutting ties with cable TV.

Instead of cable television, members of the younger generations are purchasing internet and streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus. Many younger adults have never paid for cable TV services.

Often, these streaming services are provided over the same medium as cable, Mahar said. He runs cable internet in his home, for example. The town does not receive any franchise fees from this service.

“I’m concerned those (franchise) fees will diminish over time as fewer and fewer cable subscribers come on,” Mahar said.

The trend nationally is that the amount of people subscribing to cable tv is on the decline, Mahar said. If this trend continues, that will mean less revenue for municipalities from cable franchise fees.

“This model where Cable TV is the main player, in my humble opinion, is outdated,” he said.

So Mahar and Select Board member Bob Butler drafted testimonial with proposed changes to the legislation to address this issue. The letter asks that the bill move from a focus on video service providers to a focus on data service providers.

“Anything that brings a service to your house I think should be assessed some kind of fee,” Mahar said. This would include cable television and internet.

In addition to addressing the problem of reduced municipal income from franchise fees, Mahar views these proposed changes as a means to gaining more broadband access for all people.

These cable companies are businesses, not charities, Mahar said. Maine municipalities must make a business case for the companies to expand their services.

These proposed changes to this legislation would do that within municipal franchise agreements.

While Mahar acknowledges that these changes would take time to implement, he said now is the time to begin that process.

These proposed changes would not increase any taxes on residents, as the franchise fees are paid by the companies. Mahar admitted it could lead to an increased internet bill at some point, but that was impossible to know for sure.

Mahar said he views these proposed changes as an investment in people. “We’re going to get out of our communities what we put into them,” he said.

Waldoboro resident sends legislative letter
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Comments (1)
Posted by: Maine Coast TV | Apr 24, 2021 00:12

The article says "These proposed changes would not increase any taxes on residents, as the franchise fees are paid by the companies."

 

On your Spectrum bill currently the franchise fees are added to the bill and paid by the subscriber and not Spectrum. There is also a State Service Providers Tax, and FCC Admin Fee and a Connect ME Fund, and a Broadcast TV surcharge which are billed to any paid by the subscriber, not the companies, and which are approximately $26.00 of your bill. We certainly don't need any more taxes added to the bill for us to pay.



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