Petition signatures gathered to pressure Cablevision
By Kevin E. Foley
A group of senior citizens has mounted an effort to petition the Philipstown Town Board to intervene with local cable television and Internet service provider Cablevision to persuade the company to offer a lower fixed rate service for senior and disabled citizens living on a fixed income.
The campaign has gathered over 500 signatures so far as the organizers spread out beyond the Cold Spring and Nelsonville areas into other districts of Philipstown to continue to pursue signatures. They have also established an online petition to attract support digitally.
The campaign first presented its petition at the Sept. 4 meeting of the Philipstown Town Board where Supervisor Richard Shea and other board members said they would work with the group to see what could be done to advance their idea.
The organizers, Jan Thacher and Nina Pidala, have said they hope the Town Board will use whatever leverage it can muster to influence the company. Cablevision is the only cable service in the Philipstown area so the potential for governmental or consumer leverage, usually brought by the presence of competition, is limited.
Although the petition effort seeks relief for Philipstown residents, any new outcome from negotiation with the cable company would likely have ramifications beyond this one town, as it is highly unlikely the company would grant concessions to subscribers in a single geographic location.
“We have left the specifics open for discussion,” said Thacher, who emphasized the petition wasn’t designed for a particular outcome but rather a dialogue about keeping people struggling financially connected to the cable system. Thacher said the cost of vital services is a regular topic of conversation at Chestnut Ridge, the Cold Spring senior citizen housing complex on Route 9D. He credited Pidala with doing the “lion’s share of the work” obtaining signatures.
In attempting to gather signatures the pair has found people who told them they have either cancelled or limited their service due to escalating costs. Thacher pointed to frequent discounted inducements for new subscribers as evidence of the possibility of discounted services for others.
A central point Thacher and Pidala make to people is that cable service has changed from a luxury item of years ago into a necessity for communication involving medical care, banking, shopping, keeping contact with family and friends and the general ability to live an independent life. The rising cost of cable services, a complaint often heard in the general population, hits the elderly living on a fixed income the hardest, they assert.
Thacher, 60, is legally blind. He said that new digital applications for his tablet or smart phone would allow him to scan items in a store and tell him what they cost and other information. “In order to take advantage of the apps I need the Wi-Fi,” he said. “They [Cablevision] have a good system; people just want to stay connected.”
Cablevision is a publicly traded company offering a variety of cable and web-based services to subscribers across the greater New York and New Jersey area under its Optimum brand name. The company also owns several media outlets including the Long Island-based newspaper Newsday and the Hudson Valley’s web and cable news service News 12. A spokesman told The Paper the company would look into the matter and likely have more to say as the issue proceeded.
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