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Cable deal boosts WiFi hot spots, public channels

Cable deal boosts WiFi hot spots, public channels

Crain’s New York 8/10/11

By Matthew Flamm

There will be new WiFi hot spots in 32 parks around the city, and a doubling of public access cable television channels, thanks to a cable television franchise renewal agreement that was approved Wednesday by the City’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee.

The agreement between the city and Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems Corp. calls for a $10 million investment in WiFi infrastructure in the parks. The parks have not yet been chosen, but they will be spread across the five boroughs, with an emphasis on underserved communities, according to Carole Post, commissioner of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

Ms. Post, in a briefing with reporters Wednesday morning, said that the WiFi will be rolled out over the next two years, and will be paid for and maintained by Time Warner Cable and Cablevision through 2020. The wireless service will be free for three monthly sessions of 10 minutes each, after which users will pay 99 cents a day. It will remain free to broadband subscribers of either Time Warner Cable or Cablevision.

“This is by no means business as usual,” Ms. Post said, calling the new provisions “unique across the country,” and adding that were achieved by “very aggressively [leveraging] our franchising authority.”

The city will also get three new cable channels for governmental and educational use, in addition to the five it currently has, by 2014. There will be five new public access channels for local community organizations, for a total of nine.

In addition, Time Warner Cable will install 20 miles of fiber per year in underserved commercial and industrial areas, and will bring broadband to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The cable operator will also work with community nonprofits over the 10-year course of the franchise agreement to build four broadband access centers per year.

Cablevision will provide free Internet access for public libraries within the company’s service area. The two cable operators will also contribute $1.5 million to fund the city’s media lab initiative.

In recognition of the rapidly shifting nature of technology and media consumption, the agreement also gives the city the right to renegotiate terms if revenues move away from cable television and toward broadband.

Currently the city collects 5% of gross cable television revenues. If franchise revenue receipts drop by 22.5%, the city has the right to terminate the agreement.