Questions slow renewal of deal for Mediacom

The cable company wants documentation to continue providing free service for some
low-income residents.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:31 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mediacom wants its franchise renewed by the Columbia City Council, but there are two key questions that need to be resolved before the renewal can be approved.

The first involves the free family cable service currently provided to the residents of Oak Towers and Paquin Tower, facilities for low-income elderly and disabled people. Since 2001, when Mediacom took over the local cable franchise, residents have received free family cable. Now Mediacom is requesting documentation to show that they must provide the free service.

“We requested some type of documentation to indicate that service should be provided at no charge. We have not received that,” said Stan Melton, government and community relations manager for Mediacom. Mediacom requested the information from the Columbia Housing Authority about six months ago. Doris Chiles, executive director for CHA, which operates Oak Towers and Paquin Tower, said they are searching for the necessary documents.

“We’ve been searching 30 years of records,” Chiles said. “The tenants really rely on the service. I know they can’t afford it on their own.”

At the council meeting on Monday, Jim Loveless, Fourth Ward council member, said Mediacom should agree to continue the service even without documentation.

“Do you intend to show goodwill to the people of Columbia by continuing this service?” he asked Melton.

The other issue involves the franchise’s requirement to provide the public with a studio to produce public programming. Mediacom is currently in negotiations with third party providers and should make its selection and have a formal proposal to the council before Sept. 15.

“The council has stepped up the pressure on Mediacom. I believe they’ll have something on time,” said David Wilson, vice president of the Columbia Media Resource Alliance. “Whether it meets the needs of the community remains to be seen.”

The renewal of Mediacom’s franchise is still being considered by the council. If the franchise is not renewed, it will expire in 2006.

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