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Former cable provider seeks new Wise County franchise agreement

Mike Still • Sep 8, 2019 at 6:45 PM

WISE — The operator of a cable company that once served Wise County wants to bring service back to the area.

Morris Hubbard, who operated MCA Cable two decades ago, asked the Board of Supervisors Thursday to consider granting a new franchise agreement for a reformed MCA.

“I’m going to try and bring high-quality cable and high-speed internet to the county,” Hubbard told supervisors at their meeting.

Plans for the revived MCA include offering about 100 channels to subscribers with the first month free, Hubbard said.

Hubbard said he had begun discussions with officials in Pound and Dickenson County and will start talks with Lee County officials in September. Asked by board members if he has any infrastructure in place in Wise County, he said he is talking with cable equipment suppliers in anticipation of setting up fiberoptic cable links between towns in MCA’s planned service areas.

Service to individual customers would be via coaxial cable connections, with no converter equipment needed, he added.

Asked by District 1 Supervisor Fred Luntsford about infrastructure details, Hubbard said he is also negotiating with the owner of what was MCA’s original headquarters in the Hurricane section of the county.

BOS Vice Chairman Robby Robbins asked if Hubbard planned to focus on high-population areas around towns or if he would go into more rural communities. Hubbard said he planned to cover rural areas as well as towns, adding that MCA in its earlier existence had served areas such as Bold Camp and Duncan Gap.

“I’m not in it for the money,” Hubbard said. “I want to give another option.”

Comcast now is the main cable service provider in Wise County, and Luntsford said residents have complained about service “for years.”

County Attorney Karen Mullins told the board that the current franchise agreement between the county and Comcast is non-exclusive, which would allow the county to consider Hubbard’s request.

“We look forward to hearing more details,” BOS Chair Dana Kilgore told Hubbard.

In other business, the board tabled without discussion until October a proposed contract with ARC-TV to continue recording and rebroadcasting BOS meetings on the county’s public access channel with Comcast.

The board did not renew a contract with ARC-TV operator Ernie Benko when finalizing the county’s 2019-20 budget, but it did authorize County Administrator Mike Hatfield to negotiate a new contract with Benko.

Under the terms of the last contract ending June 30, ARC-TV was paid $17,500 a year to broadcast recorded meetings without commercials on Comcast’s Channel 19 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting the Wednesday after each meeting.

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