Ameritech New Media obtained a unique cable franchise last
week in agreeing to introduce its Americast service in the community of Independence,
The City Council unanimously authorized a 15-year deal that
does not include the 5 percent franchise fee cities historically impose on cable
This means that monthly bills for ANM customers in the
community of 2,500 households will not include a charge for franchise fees -- a cost
operators pass along to consumers.
"We're proud to be one of the first communities
in the area to accomplish that feat," city councilman Jim Riley said.
Instead, ANM will make a one-time payment to reimburse the
city for its costs in reviewing the franchise, ANM spokesman Geoff Potter said.
"They really wanted to bring in competition,"
Potter added, "and they believe that there shouldn't be this kind of hidden tax
on their residents."
In order to maintain the proverbial level playing field,
however, the city is negotiating to drop the franchise fee it currently collects from its
incumbent operator, Cablevision Systems Corp.
"The city is apparently very concerned about saving
its constituents some money," Cablevision spokeswoman Carol Caruso said. "They
been very good to work with, and we expect to have things wrapped up very soon."
Independence will become the latest Cleveland-area suburb
where ANM will compete with the region's dominant cable operator.
Until recently, the Cleveland area had been slow to embrace
competition in the cable market. In the past four months, however, ANM has obtained four
new franchises in the region, and it hopes to keep its streak going in September by
obtaining a franchise in nearby Maple Heights, Potter said.
The company now has 45 franchises in Ohio, including 15 in
the Cleveland area, where its agreements cover 125,000 households and 300,000 residents.
"We're delighted that Independence has joined the
growing number of Cleveland-area communities that have chosen competition over the status
quo," ANM vice president of public affairs Donna Garofano said in a prepared