Maryland county makes most of cable contract

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Montgomery County, Md., is getting mileage from its cable franchise including programs to help traffic, the fire department and senior citizens.

Jane Lawton, a former elected official who now handles the county's telecommunications development, told a group at the GTC 2000 Southwest conference here that it's very important to consider an area's demographics when negotiating a cable contract. It's also becoming increasingly important to assure that city and county public services have access to the new high-speed fiber-optic cable lines.

Depending on the makeup of the county, it's possible to come away with opportunities to provide everything from education channels to outlets for emergency management to high-speed computer links at libraries.

For instance, Montgomery County uses a channel for traffic management, showing rush hour information and road information during emergencies. The fire department uses a closed-circuit channel for training. And seniors are learning how to tap into online health information through the library.

"There's a need for informed policymakers," Lawton said. "Most are hesitant, thinking they don't have the expertise in the technical areas, but they're very important players at the table."

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