By: Tim Kays
At their February 16 meeting, the Bryan Board of Public Affairs unanimously adopted Resolution 9-2021 to discontinue digital and digital HD cable television services.
Communications Superintendent Joe Ferrell said, “Due to the 5G mandate from the government, they are changing the D band allocation for all the satellites in space for video programming. In order to meet that demand with our digital product, and what we would have to do in a customer’s home without equipment, that cost would be exorbitant and not feasible.”
“What we suggest is that we turn down that digital product, and we keep our analog service. We would continue to pass through all of the free broadcast HD and other programming that we currently do that people get at no charge; so that wouldn’t go away.”
“The only programming that would go away would be any programming to the customer that has a digital set top to receive, which would include the digital basic, the HD simulcast, and premium channels such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz. We need to discontinue this service on May 1.”
“We are backed into somewhat of a corner, and we really don’t have a choice in the matter this time. We need to ask the Board and the public’s patience to pass a resolution that we can begin this process because it will take some time.”
“This is something that…I guess has been on the forefront for a long time,” said Board Chair Tom Sprow. This just didn’t come up overnight that it possibly might happen about the digital service.”
“Yes, you’re correct, Tom,” Ferrell replied. “We’ve known for probably two or three years. We’ve been faced with going to have to make a decision sooner or later. With what they’ve done with the satellite transmission it’s just forced our hand a lot sooner than we would have chosen.”
“We would have rather put this off as long as we could, but we’re in a position now that it’s basically out of our hands to make that decision. I might add that when the services are removed, it will give us bandwidth to be able to increase our internet service to make especially the upload, upstream service better, and we have that plan to do that this year. It will be able to offer more packages in the near future for the internet.”
“It seems to me,” said Board member James Salsbury, “…this has been coming on for some time. We’ve discussed for some time in the past, the equipment that we’ve had to purchase some years ago to maintain this digital product.”
“As the technologies improved, it became fewer and fewer of these available. I guess all of them that we have now, we’ve had to buy refurbished because they don’t make them anymore. And I believe if I read correctly, there’s a 44% failure rate on these set top boxes.”
“It seems to me that because of the expense involved and with the 5G, what the technology is going to require us for the upgrades on the tower, the dishes, processors, the racks and the headend…that’ll just be the beginning.”
“I think, in my mind anyway, if we can continue to furnish a quality product at a fair price, because I think that’s where our leg up is with our local service and being able to pay everything on one bill, hopefully people will see fit to at least give it a shot.”
Board member Dick Long asked, “This affects about 180 of our customers, correct?” Ferrell answered, “Yes, it affects is 15% of our video customers who is affected by this by this decision. The other 85%, this is entirely seamless for them.”
“As I mentioned earlier, we want the public to understand that they’re not going to lose their Toledo pass through HD programming, the extra programs they get from the broadcasters we send to them each month; they’re not going to lose that. It’s only the digital package is all that would be lost.”
“It’s going to cost us a half a million dollars-plus if we stay in that digital,” said Long. “That just doesn’t make good financial sense for 180 customers, I hate to do that to our customers, but that’s a big investment.”
“There are probably thousands of other cable businesses who have made the same decision, and moved on,” said Board member Karen Ford. “We want to give you a great channel lineup and I believe that we have left you with a solid decision.”
“The extended basic package and the basic packages, those are very good, and Joe’s got the pass through channels which are free channels to you, and some of those are in HD quality as well. And I think you’ll be happy with our pricing structure.”
“While this decision hurts 15% of you out there, this is going to be a benefit to 85% of our customer base. So I want to thank you for your support. I hope that you remain happy customers of ours, and I’m sorry for the decision, but it’s something we must do.” The analog basic and extended basic packages provide over 100 channels of programming.
“We’re not changing any of the rates,” Sprow clarified. “We’re just changing the structure to eliminate the digital portion.”
In other actions, the Board adopted Resolution 8-2021, authorizing the solicitation of proposals and entering into an agreement for the lease of the City of Bryan’s North Industrial Park for agricultural purposes.
“It’s been farmed for alfalfa by S&W Mills,” said Water Superintendent Derek Schultz. “Late in 2020, they notified BMU (Bryan Municipal Utilities) that the alfalfa was no longer producing a beneficial harvest, and that we should look at putting it into a crop rotation.”
“After discussion with the team, we looked at our options and decided that a three year lease for agricultural purposes was the best way to go. There’s approximately 75 tillable acres. After the three year crop rotation, it could be returned to alfalfa if we chose to. The agreement does have a contingency included in there for if or when the property is sold.”
The Board also unanimously agreed to move BMU Director of Utilities Nathan Gardner from his probationary status, to that of regular employment. Members of the Board were quick to praise Gardner for his service in guiding BMU through the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nate was reclassified from Engineering Supervisor to probationary Director of Utilities on August 17, 2020,” Sprow said. “Nate took on the responsibility of Director during a difficult time. Nate has guided BMU to rise to the challenge of working with our employees and community members by adapting and creating innovations in numerous ways.”
Tim can be reached at email@example.com