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Star City discusses potential Atlantic Broadband agreement

STAR CITY – Star City Council held a special meeting Thursday evening to observe a presentation and have a discussion related to a potential agreement between the town and Atlantic Broadband.

The town, which is serviced by Comcast and Clear Fiber in relation to its cable and internet needs, hosted Atlantic Broadband Director of Government Affairs Francis Bradley, who provided council with information regarding how Atlantic Broadband differs from its competition and the benefits the company could offer the town.

Bradley opened by stating Atlantic Broadband’s intention, which was to petition the town for the cable franchise to operate within it. He said that the municipalities of Westover and Granville have already approved similar petitions pitched to them by the company.

According to Bradley, Atlantic Broadband exists in 24 communities and counties in West Virginia and services about 6,000 customers in the state, including those in Preston, Marion and Mineral counties.

Bradley told council that there are only a few things that a cable franchise can be judged on – its tactical capabilities and its legal ones. Atlantic Broadband is well-developed in both areas, he said.

He described Atlantic Broadband’s service as being very similar to a streaming service. There is no coax involved, the fiber optics are all glass and the system is wireless once it reaches the home.

“The opportunity for failure is much less,” he said.

He also said that speeds with Atlantic Broadband don’t even compare to those of traditional streaming services. The upside speed is greatly enhanced, making it the preferable option when it comes to uploading things online, such as the process that happens in Zoom meetings.

In terms of its hackability, Atlantic Broadband – like most other internet service providers – features built-in protections, but there is always some risk associated with going online, Bradley said.

Atlantic Broadband would provide its services via a TiVo platform and also offer internet pods to enhance Wifi throughout customers’ homes. This is particularly important because 90% of issues had with internet services are related to Wifi, Bradley said.

Atlantic Broadband’s channel lineup would be comprised of over 300 available channels, and the company would cater to business and residential customers in Star City.

Star City Attorney Paul Cranston brought up that many residents are concerned about rates when it comes to their internet and cable providers.

“We’re still kind of working through that,” Bradley said of pricing. However, he hypothesized that rates in Star City would be similar to rates of other providers in the area, though much of the franchise’s pricing is dependent on network rates.

Bradley said that Atlantic Broadband does boast a simplified pricing model, which differentiates it from competition like Clear Fiber and Comcast.

“People will stay with whoever they feel is providing the best service,” Councilmember Lyn DeChristopher said.

Mayor Herman Reid inquired about Atlantic Broadband’s installation plan – specifically whether the company would dig up the streets during the process.

Bradley said that the company would avoid doing so, unless absolutely necessary.

“That is a last resort,” he said, and added that he knew that was an issue with other providers.

“A lot of this stuff is beyond our expertise,” Cranston admitted. He said that Star City is trying to research, figure things out and make the appropriate decision for the town.

Another standout concern for the town, Cranston said, is the financial state of Atlantic Broadband.

Bradley responded that everything about the service is funded by Atlantic Broadband and its parent company through cash flow; no government money and no contribution from the town would be used in installation or service if Star City were to enter into an agreement with Atlantic Broadband.

He said that the cost of Atlantic Broadband’s project sits at around $28 million, most of which the company hopes would be recovered through payments from customers.

“If we don’t, then it’s shame on us,” he said.

Reid voiced his approval of the fact that some of the places that have agreements with Atlantic Broadband are rural and small, like the town of Tunnelton in Preston County.

“I think it’s great that you guys went to the small places,” he said.

Reid then asked Bradley, “What’s in it for Star City?”

Bradley responded that if the town entered an agreement with Atlantic Broadband, they would receive 5% of the franchise fees and cable revenue.

He made it clear that Atlantic Broadband would likely not pick up new customers in Star City, but that they may attract some residents who are customers of providers like Comcast, Clear Fiber, DirecTV and Dish Network.

The town’s portion of the revenue would likely remain nearly the same as it is now, he said.

The biggest features Atlantic Broadband must show people that it can offer are cheaper and better service, DeChristopher said.

“That’s how you’ll get people to change,” she said.

After the conclusion of Bradley’s presentation, a motion was made for council to enter executive session to discuss the proposal further. The motion was approved.

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