Oktibbeha County could get up to $30,000 per year in additional revenue as a result of a franchise agreement supervisors recently approved with MaxxSouth.
As part of the agreement, MaxxSouth video service customers who live in the county, outside of Starkville city limits, will see up to a 5 percent increase on their bills to pay for the franchise fee.
County Administrator Emily Garrard said she’s been trying to get a new franchise agreement with MaxxSouth for a few years, after learning municipalities like Starkville and other counties collect franchise fees from cable companies while Oktibbeha County did not. However, she said she couldn’t successfully contact the appropriate people at the company until recently.
“A few months ago, somebody that works for MaxxSouth called about getting an easement out on New Light Road for some cabling,” she said. “I told him I’ve been trying to get up with somebody for quite a while about franchise agreements.”
Garrard met with MaxxSouth Regional General Manager Rick Ferrall shortly after to discuss an agreement. It went before supervisors last week and gained unanimous approval.
Franchise agreements allow cable companies to use public right-of-way for their cable networks. Oktibbeha County’s agreement with MaxxSouth is nonexclusive, meaning another company could provide service in the county. The agreement is good for 10 years. During that term, MaxxSouth will pay the county 5 percent of its gross revenues.
The company has about 500 video customers in Oktibbeha County. Garrard said the franchise fee should amount to about $30,000 in revenue.
Ferrall told The Dispatch it will take a few months for the company to start collecting the 5 percent franchise fee from customers, as it has to prepare the billing system. He said the fee will only affect those customers outside of Starkville — MaxxSouth already collects a 5 percent franchise fee on video service in the city. The fee also only applies to video service — internet service only customers will not see the increase.
“For us this was more procedural,” Ferrall said. “We already had an existing franchise, but what this did change, more than anything, is it allows the county to collect franchise fees. That means we’ll be passing along that five percent to the customers. We’re just the collector.”
The agreement also lays out where MaxxSouth will provide service. It says the company will provide service “without discrimination” to anyone who lives within 300 aerial feet or 150 underground feet of the cable system who requests it. It also says the company will extend its cable system to areas of the county that are contiguous to its current system when those areas reach a household density of at least 45 homes per cable mile.
Internet service growth
Ferrall said the company is continuing to eye areas for expansion in the county. Most of its county customers live near Starkville, he said, and the areas the company considers are densely populated ones such as those with apartment complexes.
“It comes back to a payback model,” he said. “We look at them (areas to consider) individually, but the simple fact is when you have a densely packed-in area like an apartment complex, the payback and return on investment is better. It gets a higher priority.
“When you have limited dollars, you pick and choose where you can spend them, and you’ll always choose the area that gives you the best return,” Ferrall added.
District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller told The Dispatch she’d like MaxxSouth, or some other company, to consider looking beyond the areas near town that are packed with apartment complexes. She said an area she shares with District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams, from the Poorhouse Road-South Montgomery Street intersection to where Montgomery Street terminates into Mt. Olive Road, is a prime area for consideration.
“If you take that area there, within a three-mile radius there’s over 500 homes and several businesses, and they all want fiber,” Miller said.
During the meeting last week, Miller questioned if the county could lay fiber lines for cable companies to tie into their systems if that would help expand service, though Ferrall noted that raises tricky legal and regulatory hurdles.
Still, Ferrall noted MaxxSouth builds with fiber lines when it builds to new areas, because it makes more sense for future use than expanding with coaxial cables.
Miller said she plans to continue trying to asking companies to find ways to expand internet service in the county.
“Everybody in the county wants higher speeds,” she said. “That’s the way of the future. They want faster internet service. Whether you’re homeschooling, running a business, taking college classes, you need to be able to have that.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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