SANATOGA PA – If there’s strength in numbers, area municipalities that will re-negotiate franchise contracts with Comcast Corp. during the next two years plan to bulk up before they battle.

Verizon representative Daniel Greavy said Thursday that Verizon's television service  in Lower Pottsgrove was a "qulity of life improvement" for residents.

Municipalities hope to gain better deals with Comcast as cable TV franchise agreements expire.

The borough of Royersford (PA) has asked surrounding boroughs and townships to join a working group it is forming to prepare for haggling with the cable television service provider over renewal of its franchise agreements. The agreements, which usually last for 10 years, allow Comcast to supply homeowners with its services in return for fees and other compensation paid to the municipalities in which they reside.

Existing agreements in several municipalities, including nearby Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township, 7 miles to the northwest, expire within the next 18-24 months. Royersford wants to hire a professional negotiating firm, which has experience in franchise agreements, to represent the borough as its contract comes due.

Last month, according to township Manager Rodney Hawthorne, Royersford sent a letter to its municipal neighbors asking if they’d like to do the same. To which, Lower Pottsgrove’s Board of Commissioners during its meeting last week (May 4, 2009), said “Count us in.”

The board’s agreement constitutes only an expression of interest. No costs associated with the effort were discussed, but Commissioner Anthony Doyle noted that any resulting expenses incurred by the group would be equally shared by municipalities represented.

For several years Comcast has been a sole supplier of television services in many municipalities. But with growing competition – Verizon Corp.‘s opposing FIOS-brand television services will be available in Lower Pottsgrove this year, for example – Comcast has fought for market share. Some municipalities believe they can win better franchise deals for the future.

During 2008 alone, according to budget documents, Lower Pottsgrove earned about $160,000 from cable television assessments, in addition to other payments and perquisites called for under its franchise pact with Comcast. Its deal with Verizon may bring in an additional $50,000 this year.

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