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New cable deal being negotiated

| Sunday, July 28, 2002

Cranberry officials are beginning to renegotiate a cable television agreement with Armstrong.

The current agreement, approved in 1989, is due to expire Feb. 1, 2004. If everything goes well, the township supervisors should have a plan to vote on the contract by the end of 2003.

Township Manager Jerry Andree said the township has limited powers in its ability to regulate cable operators. The Federal Communications Commission has the primary jurisdiction, he said.

While the township has no control over rates or channel selection, as it once did, Andree said the township's primary goal is to ensure the cable company is offering adequate customer service and provides modern equipment for its customers.

He said the township is among the Butler-based utility's biggest cable Internet customers.

Armstrong will have a public presentation at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 during the supervisors meeting at the municipal building, 2525 Rochester Road. Residents with questions or comments can send them to township by following the links on the township's Web site: www.twp.cranberry.pa.us .

The township charges Armstrong a franchise fee, which generated $127,019 for the township's efforts to acquire and develop parks in 2001. The township budgeted $150,000 this year for revenue from the cable franchise fee. The agreement and the fee allow the cable company to put its equipment in the township's rights of way.

The agreement between the township and Armstrong is not exclusive, but Andree said it is rare for a second cable company to serve a municipality because of the expense of putting the infrastructure in place.

"It is very expensive to wire a community," Andree said.

Cranberry residents pay $33.94 per month for basic cable, which includes about 60 channels. In September 2001, the utility raised its rates for the entry level package from $29.95 per month, said Joe Wyant, the general manager of the Zelienople system, which handles Cranberry and all of southern Butler County.

"People can send (the township) their comments if there is something they want to talk about," Andree said.

Two months ago, Armstrong finished negotiating franchise agreements with Bradford Woods, Marshall, Pine and Richland in northern Allegheny County, Wyant said.

Wyant said the public presentation is a good opportunity for customers to comment on the service.

"This gives anyone who is unhappy with a service a chance to come forward and tell the company and municipal officials — a chance to give their two cents worth," Wyant said. "People don't tend to come to these things, which is unfortunate."

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