Cariddi to host public forum on North Berkshire cable needs


NORTH ADAMS -- In response to the proposed acquisition of Time Warner by Comcast earlier this month, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, will hold a public forum next week on cable service in North Berkshire.

Cariddi aims to take public sentiment from the forum, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the North Adams Public Library, into a meeting she's having with Comcast representatives later this month.

"I've been contacted by Comcast in the Boston area and they'd like to come in and see me about they're proposed taking over of Time Warner," Cariddi said. "I thought it would be best to speak to them with some ammunition behind me of the people."

The two cable companies announced a $45 billion acquisition deal earlier this month, but the takeover still awaits shareholder and Federal Communications Commission approval. If the agreement passes those hurdles, Comcast would hold some 30 million subscribers across the country.

Cariddi said she isn't concerned with the merger of the two companies, "but about how my constituents are going to be treated as a result of it."

Not only are cable services and costs going to be up for discussion at the forum, but Internet as well. Cariddi hopes that subscribers to satellite services also will attend to give their perspective on the issue.

Cariddi plans to first ask residents what they're optimal cable package and cost would be, she said, to get a sense of what residents need out of their provider.

In her meeting with Comcast representatives, Cariddi said she also will aim to get a better sense of what prices under the new cable company could look like. In a recent bill since the merger, Cariddi said she's noticed changes to Internet prices, and she hopes to find out if the increases are due to the acquisition.

North Adams was on the verge of signing a new contract with Time Warner when the acquisition was announced. Mayor Richard Alcombright said the attorney representing the city in those negotiations has assured him there "are no immediate concerns" brought on by the new deal.

Alcombright said the city will continue to push to keep a service building -- currently located on Hodges Cross Road -- in North Adams.

"For residents here in North Berkshire that office is critical," Alcombright said.

Cariddi also will be starting a petition to bring to the FCC and Comcast, asking for Northern Berkshire County to be included in the Springfield and Boston cable markets.

"[The petition is] because of the wrong media market we're in," Cariddi said. "We need to have news from Boston and from Springfield."

Last year, Cariddi held several similar forums, including on topics such as gun control, transportation and education.

"I know they're willing to listen," she said. "I'm not sure if they're willing to make changes."

To reach Adam Shanks:

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