Students enjoy temporary cable

For a limited time, Yale students will have access to free extended cable in dormitories across campus, Yale Information Technology Services announced last week.

Because Comcast is currently remapping the channels in its New Haven franchise, ITS officials negotiated a deal with the cable provider to prevent students from temporarily losing access to news stations. The deal has added almost 40 channels to the free basic cable package for a transitional period of four to sixweeks.

Yale Chief Information Officer Philip Long, the director of ITS, said the deal is a compromise between the University and the communications company.

“Comcast and Yale worked together to solve this problem in a way that’s reasonable for subscribers,” Long said. “The channels have moved, which is a little bit of an inconvenience, but in the meantime everyone gets extended cable at no charge.”

The remapping would have resulted in a temporary loss of all cable news channels, including CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News, CNBC and MSNBC. But the Oct. 11 deal preserves student access to those channels while adding sports, music and entertainment channels not normally available under the basic cable package. This “expanded basic” cable package normally costs $37 per month.

Long said ITS considered the cable news networks necessary for students under the basic plan, and negotiated the deal shortly before the changeover.

“Under the remapping, a set of channels, including a set of news channels we thought would be of interest of students, would simply go away,” Long said. “It could have been a lot worse. I regard this as a pretty successful deal considering the short notice.”

Comcast spokesman Shawn Fedderman said the channel remapping is intended to make channel-surfing more manageable.

“Across the State of Connecticut, we are making our channel lineup more user-friendly,” Fedderman said. “The idea is to make it easier for customers to find the networks and programs through genre-based blocks. Sports channels, entertainment channels and family channels are now all together.”

Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06, political director of the Yale television station YTV, said he is pleased with the deal.

“Yale should provide as much access to a variety of stations as possible, because it’s important for students to have a range of ideas and opinions to watch and think about,” Kennedy-Shaffer said.

Kennedy-Shaffer said he believes the University has the bargaining power to arrange similar cable deals in the long term.

“Comcast is a commercial cable company that has something of a monopoly in many parts of the country, and an institution like Yale has the ability, because it’s buying for so many people, to force concessions from Comcast,” Kennedy-Shaffer said. “I think Yale needs to be more forceful in negotiating with Comcast.”

Some students have complained about the confusion over the channel realignment. Customers who use TiVo digital recording technology to tape their favorite shows have found the new lineup problematic.

“The remapping was briefly inconvenient, and I ended up taping all sorts of shows in which I have no interest,” TiVo user Jake Evers ’07 said.

Fedderman said Comcast has taken measures to prevent customer confusion about the remapping.

“We communicate with our customers regularly before we make any changes, and customers have received two separate mailings explaining the new lineup,” Fedderman said. “We hope that most customers were aware of the changes in advance.”

Information about the cable remapping and service extension has been posted on the Yale Cable Television Service Web site.

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