Arlington Independent Media, the local public access cable channel and media education center, is asking its members to support a new cable franchise agreement the county has reportedly reached with Comcast.
The franchise agreement is what allows Comcast to serve customers in Arlington, to the exclusion of other traditional cable providers. (Verizon’s FiOS service has its own franchise agreement in Arlington.)
Arlington County has been negotiating a franchise agreement renewal with Comcast since 2013, when its last long-term agreement expired. The County Board has continuously, temporarily extended the agreement until negotiations could conclude.
The specifics of the new agreement, which reportedly runs through Dec. 2021 and is expected to be considered by the County Board next month, were not immediately available. However, in an email to its members, AIM said the agreement would continue to fund the organization, with some notable changes.
Under the agreement, AIM would be upgraded to an HD channel on Comcast’s cable service. Meanwhile, the organization would “continue to receive approximately 1% of Comcast’s gross revenue as operating support,” according to the email, with the county contributing another 1% from its 5% communications tax in addition to an annual capital grant.
AIM’s current facilities in the Comcast building in Clarendon, however, would cease to be rent-free starting Jan. 1, 2018. That “presents AIM with a significant challenge and we will have to quickly figure out a way to remain viable under these conditions,” wrote AIM Executive Director Paul LeValley.
Overall, LeValley wrote, the agreement is “very positive for AIM and we are grateful to the County for negotiating its terms on our behalf.” The only change the organization is seeking is a provision requiring that Comcast list its programming on its on-screen guide.
It is “imperative that our full program schedule be included in Comcast’s digital program guide,” wrote LaValley. “Unfortunately, the draft agreement fails to make this requirement. We believe that inclusion of our program schedule would significantly improve our ability to attract and keep audiences for the many fine programs that you all work so hard to create for our community.”
The full email has been published on the AIM website.
Another Temporary Extension for Comcast — The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected to approve another temporary extension of the county’s franchise agreement with cable operator Comcast. The extension will run through Oct. 31, 2016. Comcast’s last long-term franchise agreement in Arlington expired in 2013; officials say the temporary extensions have been necessary to allow negotiations to continue. [Arlington County]
Arlington Community High School Open House — The former Arlington Mill High School program has a new name, a new location and will be holding an open house this weekend. Arlington Community High School, as it is now known, has moved to the former Fenwick Center at 800 S. Walter Reed Drive. The school is holding an open house from 9-11:30 a.m. this coming Saturday. [Arlington Public Schools]
Clement Laments Development — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement says she has exposed “disturbing development trends in Arlington.” According to Clement, continued development has “transformed Arlington” and harmed schools and parks. [Audrey Clement]
Nova Armory ‘Under New Ownership’ — Added at 9:55 a.m. — Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory, which was the scene of a break-in earlier this week, is “under new ownership,” according to a tweet sent from the store’s Twitter account overnight. No additional information was immediately available. [Twitter]
Twitter FYI: We’re Not @Arlnow — Added at 10:05 a.m. — The above tweet presents a great opportunity to remind readers that our Twitter handle is @ARLnowDOTcom. It’s not @arlnow, which belongs to an Apple news site that hasn’t published a new tweet since 2010. Check here to see if you’re among the folks tweeting at the wrong account.
“We have identified the underlying cause and services are being restored,” said Jamie Debole, a Comcast representative, via email. “Customers’ services should now be working.”
Earlier: Comcast customers in Arlington, the D.C. area and much of the northeast U.S. are reporting issues with their cable TV service.
According to various social media posts, the problem is affecting those on Comcast’s X1 platform — its newest cable boxes. Some are also reporting sluggish internet service.
Various Twitter users, citing Comcast customer service reps, are saying that the problems were caused by a failed automatic upgrade to the cable boxes.
Comcast suffered a major business phone service outage earlier this week.
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@ARLnowDOTcom out all day in Shirlington.
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Update at 1 p.m. — Service has been restored to affected Comcast customers in Arlington, a company spokeswoman tells ARLnow.com. “We are very sorry about that, we know that our customers do rely on our products,” she said. The outage was caused by a “fiber cut during maintenance overnight.”
Residents throughout Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood area were left without their Comcast TV and internet service this morning.
The company has told customers that they expect service to be restored later today, perhaps by noon.
Fairlington is one of the last Arlington neighborhoods without Verizon FiOS service, which competes with Comcast elsewhere in the county. Meanwhile, Arlington County has been granting Comcast temporary extensions on its cable franchise agreement since 2013 while the two sides negotiate a new long-term agreement.
A large tree has fallen across a residential street near Gunston Middle School, bringing down utility lines and damaging a parked car.
The tree fell around noon, amid gusty winds. No injuries were reported.
Currently, 28th Street S. is blocked between S. Lang Street and Arlington Ridge Road.
Numerous crews from Arlington County and Comcast are on scene, preparing to remove the tree and repair the lines and snapped utility poles.
‘Sound of Music’ Star Recalls Arlington Upbringing — Showbiz star Nicholas Hammond, who played Friedrich von Trapp in the “Sound of Music” 50 years ago, recently recounted his childhood in Arlington. “I loved growing up there, in a much simpler time,” he told Charlie Clark. “My brother and I had paper routes. Your parents thought nothing of kids going off on their bikes pre-dawn and throwing papers onto front-door steps. We’d play ball, or go on our bikes or explore the woods. It all seemed very safe.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Local Masseuse Working Out Trump Stress — Locals are stressing out about the idea of Donald Trump becoming the next president of the United States. Reports the Post: “Amanda Long, an Arlington, Va., massage therapist… has grown accustomed in recent weeks to clients laying down on her table and bellowing, ‘Can you believe this guy?’ Long allows her clients to vent for a few minutes before she tries to quiet them, if only so they can relax and she can attend to their aches.” [Washington Post]
Comcast Outage in Crystal City — Comcast customers in parts of Crystal City and South Arlington were without their TV, voice and internet service for most of the day yesterday. Service has since been restored, we hear.
Garvey: Use Garages During Snowstorms — To speed up snow plowing on local streets, county leaders want to try to reduce the number of cars parked on the side of the road during snowstorms. To facilitate that, County Board Chair Libby Garvey has asked county staff to look into the idea of opening up Arlington’s parking garages as emergency snow parking areas. [InsideNova]
Winter Is Over — The groundhog was right: an early spring is here. It may still be officially winter, but all computer models are pointing to warmer-than-average weather through April. [Capital Weather Gang]
Fairlington is the last neighborhood in Arlington to be wired for FiOS, according to Rob Billingsley, Arlington County’s Cable Administrator.
Under an agreement with Verizon enacted in June 2006, the company agreed to complete a county-wide implementation of FiOS service within 10 years. The initial service build-out took place mostly in north Arlington, before Verizon’s fiber optic lines were brought to other parts of the county during a second phase of the project.
The final phase, in Fairlington, is expected to wrap up this summer, Billingsley said.
One unanswered question — which is one of the subjects of a scheduled Feb. 10 Fairlington community meeting — is how Verizon will get service from the fiber optic lines that run along the street to the thousands of condo units that make up the World War II-era neighborhood.
It’s a straightforward process for single family homes, for which the home owner also owns the surrounding lot. In historic Fairlington, however, various condominium associations own the land and control changes to the property.
Verizon will need to strike agreements with each condo association to outline how it will get service from the street to each unit. It’s theoretically possible that FiOS could fulfill its contractual obligations to the county by laying the fiber lines without actually providing any residents with service, Billingsley noted.
While FiOS is widely available to homes in the county, many apartment buildings and condo complexes still lack the infrastructure to support FiOS service.
Arlington County is in the process of negotiating with Comcast for a new long term franchise agreement, but they’ve run out of time. That’s why they’re requesting a one year extension, which will be examined at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting.
Franchise agreements, which allow cable and video service providers to operate in a locality, typically are negotiated once every 10-15 years. Comcast took over an existing franchise agreement in 2000 and that expired in June of this year. In June, the County Board approved a six month temporary contract extension, which ends this month. Because both parties are still hashing out details of a long term agreement, they submitted the request currently before the Board for another temporary extension, to expire in December of 2014.
“The purpose of the extension is to give us time to negotiate the best deal we can with Comcast,” said the county’s Cable Administrator Rob Billingsley. “Rather than put the agreement in any kind of peril, the idea is that the Board passes, hopefully, that extension so we do have that time. All parties agree to do this, it’s not at all controversial.”
Both parties are required by law to keep the negotiations confidential. Billingsley did say, however, that the meetings have been successful and productive thus far.
“Because these agreements last as long as do, there’s some complexity to it,” Billingsley explained. “You’re not rushing it and you’re getting the best deal possible.”
The long term contracts allow Comcast to use the county’s “rights of way” such as streets and sidewalks. In exchange, Comcast provides free public education and government TV channels, in addition to grants and equipment for producing shows on those channels. The county also receives approximately five percent of Comcast’s gross revenue in Arlington, which is first routed through the state due to tax requirements and then heads back into the county’s general fund.
Part of the cable franchise renewal process involves examining Comcast’s past performance and determining future services to be included in the new agreement. There was a public meeting to discuss such desired services back in September of 2011.
County staff is recommending the County Board approve the temporary contract extension on Saturday.
W-L Softball Field Approved — The Arlington County Board has unanimously approved use permits for a new softball field at Washington-Lee High School. The $1 million field will include lighting, grandstands, and a press box.
Comcast Doubling Internet Speeds — Arlington is one of the areas where Comcast is increasing its internet speeds this week. The company says it’s doubling the internet speeds of Arlington customers who currently have the Blast 25 Mbps or the Extreme 50 Mbps internet service, at no additional cost. “This is the seventh time since 2002 that Comcast has increased speeds for its customers,” Comcast spokeswoman Alisha Martin said.
Encore’s ‘Pirates of Penzance’ Reviewed — The Encore Stage and Studio production of “The Pirates of Penzance” — currently playing at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater at 125 S. Old Glebe Road — is “two hours of solid entertainment for all ages,” according to a newspaper review. [Sun Gazette]
As of 9:30 a.m. on Monday, 27,586 Dominion customers were still without power, down from 59,000 at noon on Saturday. The company says it has 4,200 employees and contractors working to restore power to customers in all affected areas, but notes that the huge scale of the damage is making restoration a multi-day process.
“Many poles and cross arms need to be replaced, and other infrastructure needs to be rebuilt,” Dominion said in a press release.
Verizon says it’s working “around the clock” to restore phone, internet and TV service. According to spokesman Harry J. Mitchell:
As with most services in the immediate aftermath of the storms — a situation faced by more than a million residences and businesses throughout the Washington metropolitan area — Verizon has been making every effort to assess damages to its facilities and immediately had crews working to get services back online. However, due to extensive commercial power outages across the entire region, our crews have had to deal with a number of technical and mechanical challenges, in addition to storm damage such as downed poles and trees on our wires.
A power issue in one of our Arlington facilities has created several issues that we’re currently working through, including difficulty some callers are having when dialing 911 in Fairfax and Prince William counties. These counties’ 911 centers now are receiving most calls, and we continue to work diligently to restore full calling to them.
We’re working late hours — often around the clock — and bringing in additional technicians from other parts of our service area to assist in bringing service back as quickly as we possibly can. We appreciate customers’ continued patience as we work to restore services in the wake of one of the worst storms in recent memory.
Comcast, meanwhile, is also facing significant service issues in Arlington in the wake of the storm. Last night many Twitter users reported that their Comcast TV and internet service had gone out, despite it working earlier in the day. According to Comcast spokeswoman Aimee N. Metrick:
At this time it appears most issues are directly related to commercial power outages, and for the vast majority of people, service should be restored as power comes back on to their homes. However, given the severity of the winds and rain that arose from this storm, we are also seeing some more extensive damage caused by falling trees, poles and more that will take longer to repair.
We are working closely with state and local emergency personnel and power companies, and have employees working across the footprint to assess and repair damage in impacted areas once provided clearance that it’s safe to do so. We appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding, and will continue to work until service has been restored for all.
With temperatures again expected to climb into the 90s, Arlington County’s libraries and community centers are open today as cooling centers for those without power. Among the centers that will be open are:
- Aurora Hills Community and Senior Center (10am-3pm)
- Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center (8 am-10:30pm)
- Carver Community Center (9am-9pm)
- Charles Drew Community Center (3pm-9pm)
- Fairlington Community Center (8am-9pm)
- Gunston Community Center (2pm-9pm)
- Langston-Brown Community Center (9am-10pm)
- Lee Community Center (9:30am-6pm)
- Madison Community Center (9am-9pm)
- Thomas Jefferson Community Center (6am-10pm)
- Walter Reed Community Center (8am-10pm)
Arlington’s libraries — including Central, Aurora Hills, Glencarlyn, Shirlington, Westover — are scheduled to be open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. today. Yesterday Central Library and Shirlington Branch Library stayed open until 11:00 p.m. to accommodate those who lost power. According to the library blog, some 600 people were crammed into Central Library yesterday afternoon. The fire department also set up a temporary spray park at Central Library to help kids cool off.
The Cherrydale and Columbia Pike libraries are closed today due to lack of power. Also closed is the Lubber Run Community Center, the Long Branch Nature Center, some schools and some summer camps. See a full list of county closures here.
Dogma Bakery in Shirlington (2772 S. Arlington Mill Drive) is remaining open until 9:00 tonight and welcoming pets and owners who need a cool place at which to hang out. Owner Sheila Raebel — whose own house is without power — says she has set up chairs and tables after finding out that other cooling centers weren’t necessarily welcoming pets.
“We had people who were asking about it,” she said. “We found out the county… doesn’t have a place for people with their pets to come when it’s really hot. There are a lot of dogs who are older and a lot of cats who can’t live in a place where it’s 85 degrees”
The store’s Lee Highway location is currently closed due to lack of power.
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
As a result of the outage, librarians are checking out customers by hand at Arlington Central Library, according to library spokesman Peter Golkin. All internet at the library, including access to the library catalog system, is down. Customers at the library can still access the catalog via their smart phones, however.
Most Arlington Public Schools south of Route 50 are also experiencing the same problems, according to a school employee. Phone and internet service has been down at the schools since 2:00 p.m., around the same time Central Library lost its phone and data service.
In both cases, we’re told a problem with a Comcast fiber optic line is to blame. Comcast is hoping to have the problem fixed by tomorrow, Golkin said.
Update at 8:45 a.m. — All services have been restored to Central Library, Golkin says.
The ‘franchise agreement’ that allows Comcast to provide cable television services in Arlington County is up for renewal, and residents are being asked to share their thoughts on what services the company can provide as part of a new franchise agreement.
Currently, Comcast helps to equip Arlington County’s government access channel, the Arlington Virginia Network, and helps to fund Arlington Independent Media, the independently-run public access channel. It also provides the fiber optic network and internet access service used by Arlington County government and Arlington Public Schools.
At tonight’s meeting, residents are encouraged to “share your own comments on potential services that might be part of a new cable franchise agreement.”
The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the County Board room at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard. The county-produced video, above, and the Comcast Cable Renewal Process page of the Arlington County website provide more information about the process.
Aurora Hills Babysitter Co-Op — While the District has been ranked as the most expensive place in the country for childcare, parents in the Aurora Hills neighborhood, near Crystal City, have banded together to save money by taking care of each other’s kids. The Aurora Hills babysitting co-op is “just a group of moms helping each other out,” according to one of the members. [MyFoxDC]
Seasonal Green Chiles Arrive in Arlington — A shipment of green chiles, fresh from the famous growing region of Hatch, N.M., has arrived at Santa Fe Cafe (1500 Wilson Blvd) in Rosslyn. The restaurant is expecting to receive about 100 pounds of Hatch green chiles throughout September. Owner Kip Laramie says he’ll be using the flavorful, spicy ingredient to serve dishes like locally smoked pork chop with green chile peach chutney, grilled spinach with green chile quesadilla, and red snapper with artichokes, mushrooms and green chiles. [Rosslyn Blog]
Public Forum Planned for Comcast Renewal — Comcast is seeking to renew its cable franchise agreement with the county, and a public meeting is planned to give residents a chance to share their thoughts on the company’s service in Arlington. Officials are specifically seeking ideas for public services that Comcast can provide as part of a new franchise agreement. The meeting will be held on at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the County Board room of 2100 Clarendon Boulevard. [Arlington County]
ARLnow Mobile Site Disabled — We’ve temporarily disabled the mobile version of our web site. Web-enabled mobile phone users visiting ARLnow.com will now see the full version of the site. We expect to have the mobile site back up by Monday.
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
A week ago Comcast rolled out a new on-screen guide for digital cable customers in Arlington.
The new guide was touted in mailings as faster and easier to use with a few new features that had been requested by customers. Many local customers, however, have taken to our comments section to blast the new guide, which eliminated the sleep timer and picture-in-a-picture functions that were available with the old guide.
Now that you’ve had a week to try it out, how do you feel about the “upgrade?”
Screen capture via Comcast
Comcast Digital TV customers in Arlington will start getting a new on-screen guide this week.
The new guide will feature “faster On Demand access, a more user-friendly interface, more detailed program information, improved DVR and search functionality and a convenient menu of shortcuts,” according to Comcast.
Other features include easier access to HD channels through a “quick menu,” expanded parental controls, the ability to save multiple “favorite channel” lists, a “message center,” and local weather information.
“This week, we are launching a new on-screen program guide for our Arlington Digital TV customers that is designed to deliver an improved TV viewing experience,” Comcast public relations manager Alisha Martin tells ARLnow.com. “The changes to the guide are based upon the feedback we’ve received from our customers, who have asked for a faster, easier-to-use interface with increased functionality… The technology will also pave the way for additional enhancements in the future.”
Martin says customers in Arlington should start seeing the new on-screen guide this week. Those customers will notice new colors and configurations in their guides, including color coding for certain programming, like movies, sports and kids programs.