University Negotiating With Time Warner

15 February 2002

By Stentor Danielson
Managing Editor

Colgate hopes to upgrade its cable television system, bringing viewers expanded channel options, pay-per-view and better quality reception for local stations beginning next semester. The improvements would come as a result of changing the University's cable contract from Falls Earth Inc. to Time Warner Cable.

The decision was made by a committee composed of Director of Media and Instructional Technology Services Darryl Simcoe, Associate Provost Trish St. Leger, Director of Technology Planning Rich Grant, Interim Director of Residential Life Carrie McLaughlin, Associate Professor of English Constance Harsh and Student Government Association (SGA) representatives sophomore Bart Hale and senior Amy O'Hara. The committee reviewed bids from Falls Earth and Time Warner in November and December and came to a decision over winter break. The decision was announced to campus in an e-mail sent out Monday.

While the committee has approved the switch, the new contract with Time Warner has not been made official.

"It's hardening concrete at this point, but not carved in stone," Simcoe said.

Falls Earth's five-year contract will expire at the end of this academic year. This prompted the committee to solicit a bid from Time Warner to compare to Falls Earth's bid for renewal of its contract.

"Right away I thought Time Warner was the better option," Hale said. "He said there was a consensus among committee members to make the switch."

Committee members listed many advantages to switching to Time Warner. Next semester, students will receive new channels including FOX News, Turner Classic Movies, MSNBC and Oxygen. The channel offerings were a standard package from Time Warner, but Hale said that Time Warner had been responsive to altering the channel lineup. Time Warner is expected to drop QVC, ShopNBC and HSN in order to offer educational channels such as SCOLA, Univision and Deutsche Welle, used primarily by language departments.

The change to Time Warner will not affect CUTV. Hale said that Time Warner had been very responsive to requests that CUTV be kept on channel 13. O'Hara said that she had spoken with the mayor of Hamilton about the possibility of televising CUTV programming to the village. This option would only be made possible through a contract with Time Warner.

The one channel currently available that was not part of Time Warner's package was TechTV. According to Simcoe, Colgate is exploring the possibility of adding the station to the basic service, but if this does not happen, students will still be able to purchase TechTV and other specialty channels directly from Time Warner.

"I hope it will be beneficial. It looks to me like there are more options for students," Harsh said. "I dont expect it to change student viewing habits dramatically."

"Do I think students will enjoy having more options? Yes," O'Hara said. She said she sees the change as an "opportunity to provide students with more entertainment on campus."

Simcoe said that Time Warner will upgrade the University's cable infrastructure to a two-way 1700 MHz system that will allow students to access digital services like pay-per-view or purchasing specialty channels. The current system was designed without a digital option due to a previous administrative decision to give everyone the same cable package. This additional programming can be purchased directly from Time Warner. The upgrades, which will mostly consist of replacing the amplifiers, are expected to be complete by June.

Time Warner will remain involved with the physical aspect of the cable system, providing maintenance and service.

"They've assured us that they'll be responsive to repair calls," Simcoe said.

Time Warner will also provide the University with better reception quality for local stations, which had previously been received by antenna but will now come in over the cable system itself.

"I know there was concern from some of the students over the quality of some of the reception," Harsh said.

Price was also factored into the decision, according to committee members. Even with the additional channels and upgrades to the University infrastructure, the bid from Time Warner was still cheaper than the bid from Falls Earth. "I think the bigger company was able to offer the better prices," Hale said.

Simcoe said that the decision was not based on a deficiency in Falls Earth.

"In terms of their responsiveness and the original package they gave us ... it was very favorable," he said.

O'Hara said that, while Falls Earth's bid "was not terribly impressive," "the television options [that Colgate has currently with Falls Earth] are not bad compared with other universities that get only channels three, five and nine."

Time Warner and Falls Earth were the only two companies considered.

Hale said that he sees the change to Time Warner as benefiting both the students and benefiting the University in every way.

Student reaction to the upgrade was generally positive. "We need it," sophomore Matt Cohen said. "The cable here has been terrible."

Sophomore Jay Barr said he would be happy "so long as they keep the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel and the History Channel."

"If they can get NESN (New England Sports Network), that would be even better," senior Brian Lemek said. "Gotta watch the Red Sox."

Garrett's lecture was sponsored by the Wolk Heart Foundation.

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