City, schools negotiate with Charter to get cable service back


Charter negotiates with the city of Missoula

MISSOULA, Mont. - Charter Communications mailed out letters to cable television customers last month telling them they need new digital set-top boxes for every TV. It's part of the company's switch from analog channels to digital.

Some customers apparently ignored the switch-over notice and flooded Charter's Missoula office this week to get the new boxes.

Now the Missoula County's Public School District, the mayor's office and hospitals are negotiating with Charter about to how to bring their service back.

Regional Director of Communications for Charter Brian Anderson said the company sent out letters, emails and automated phone calls telling customers about the digital switch-over.

Central Services Director Dale Bickell said the city is sending a letter to Charter telling them how many set-top boxes they need. The city has an agreement with Charter communications that they made years ago.

"The franchise agreement was negotiated years ago and didn't contemplate the technology of this digital signal today," said Bickell.

The contract says one building gets one box, and that's a big problem if you've got more than one TV.

Hatton Littman, the Director of Technology and Communication with Missoula County Public Schools said the schools face the issue on a large scale. They have roughly 628 classrooms and many cable TVs in those rooms. Teachers often use cable channels to teach students current events.

Fixing the problem won't be cheap, but no one can tell NBC Montana exactly how much it will cost.

"628 is a significant sum of money. It could be anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000, but I want to be clear that right now we're in negotiations with Charter to try to identify that subset group that we could use for every emergency situation and then find a better long-term solution for our school district," said Littman.

Littman said the schools will have a meeting on Tuesday with Charter to discuss options for the school.

Bickell said the city will send a letter to Charter by Friday about adjustments to the original franchise agreement. Until the negotiation is finalized, those TVs will remain static.

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