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County to fund cable franchise study

May 26, 2004|by TARA REILLY

In a close vote, the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday decided to pay up to $25,000 to a consultant who will study the need for a cable franchise agreement in the county.An agreement would bring high-speed Internet access to county government and schools, officials have said.

The commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the money for a consultant, who will be chosen through a county bidding process.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner John C. Munson opposed the move, saying a cable franchise agreement would result in higher cable bills for customers.

"Some people don't have any entertainment but TV," Munson said. "It's going to hurt them. No matter what we do, there will be a fee to customers."

In January, Antietam Cable General Manager Gene Hager said customers' bills might increase by $3 to $5 per month if the county approves an agreement.

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Cable companies are required by federal law to negotiate with governments who want franchise agreements, Hagerstown Finance Director Al Martin has said.

Hagerstown has had such an agreement with Antietam Cable since 1967, Martin has said.

Ron Whitt, the county's director of information technologies, said the county study would begin after July 1 and would take 90 to 120 days.

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