By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(July 5, 2018) For Ocean Pines residents wondering what’s going on with Mediacom, administration officials last week said negotiations on a new franchise agreement are currently going back and forth between attorneys.
Association President Doug Parks, during a public board meeting on June 23, said discussions were also held with other companies, including Verizon and Comcast about bringing high-speed internet to the Pines, but were deemed unrealistic.
Comcast, for instance, would have required each resident to sign up for bulk services at $65 per month, Parks said.
“The annual assessment increase would be $780,” Parks said. “Based on that, I felt confidentthat would not pass muster with the association.”
General Manager John Bailey added about other companies, “It’s not simple enough that Comcast can run a line from your ditch to your home. They don’t have the network in the ground.”
“Easements are no longer available [only] to Mediacom – they’re available to everybody. But it requires a significant capital investment by Comcast or whoever else,” Bailey said. “It wouldn’t matter who it was – they would have to put in their own infrastructure or buy it from Mediacom. So, it’s a big capital investment for anybody else to provide. It’s not just a simple run the line from the nearest pole … to your property.”
On contract renewal negotiations with Mediacom, Parks said association attorneys recently forwarded recommendations to attorneys for Mediacom and both sides were working out the details.
“That process is ongoing,” he said. “Mediacom has said that as long as we are having an open discussion with them regarding a contract, they will honor it month to month. So, we’re not really in any danger of losing a contract.”
Bailey held up a 55-page draft agreement he said arrived one-day earlier.
“It’s a wonderful 55 pages of technical [language] … and legalese that requires several reads for each paragraph to understand it,” he said.
Parks added that attorneys had advised, “There’s a nondisclosure here until they get to a certain point.”
“Be advised the process is ongoing. It’s not ready yet. And I think the most important point as stated by Mediacom is it’s not effecting the current agreement, because it will continue month to month as long as we’re operating in good faith with them,” Parks said.
Director Ted Moroney said the dense 55-page draft is somewhat unique.
“This Mediacom contract is different than what we’ve done in the past, because … it sets the stage if a Verizon or a Comcast or somebody else comes in,” he said. “This document really has to encompass a lot more than previous Mediacom contracts did, which is why it’s taking a little bit longer and it’s 55 pages or so, versus half a dozen pages.”
On the bulk agreement offered by Comcast, Moroney said it would “lock the entire association in for five years with a 5 percent increase per year … and it only gives you one setup in your house.”
If the association went that route, Moroney said, it would be on the hook even if someone decided not to pay their dues.
“You are paying for them to have it and there’s no incentive for the provider to cut it off, because they’re still getting money from the association,” he said.
Director Slobodan Trendic asked who is negotiating on behalf of Ocean Pines besides the attorneys and what is causing the delay. He said Parks and Association Vice President Cheryl Jacobs first brought up talks of a new franchise agreement last fall.
“The existing franchise agreement between Mediacom and OPA expired on June 3, 2018,” Trendic said. “The board has yet to receive any draft of the new franchise agreement for review.”
Bailey said he, Jacobs and former Director Tom Terry were handling the negotiations. Jacobs added a contract review work group also provided some input.
She added the draft was not yet available to the board for review at the advice of Ocean Pines’ attorney, but later clarified, “I’m not at all suggesting the entire board is not going to have access to this.”
“Absolutely they will,” she said. “I’m just saying this initial draft, which we just got, is not ready yet to be shared with the entire board because the attorney is looking for some feedback relative to the questions that were raised by this [work] group.”