Newport Mayor David Stewart assured the council that he would be in contact with KAIT8 out of Jonesboro this week in reference to a decision made by Suddenlink to discontinue the channel, along with two others, for Newport subscribers. According to a Suddenlink billing statement presented to the Newport City Council by citizen Phil McDonald Monday evening during a regular council meeting, the change is to take effect on Feb. 27. According to the statement, channels 2, 4 and 5 will be removed and a Mississippi news channel will be added.
Suddenlink services are not available to all citizens of Newport, which has been a problem for years. The City of Newport had to pay for Suddenlink to cover the airbase when ASU-Newport needed internet service. According to Stewart, Farmer’s Electric customers have never had services, despite the offer by the electric coop to use their poles for the utilities.
McDonald said that he called and spoke to a representative of Suddenlink and was advised that they have the right to make changes without a public hearing. “We need to do something,” he told the council, expressing his concern that the Jonesboro news station is often the only source of information during severe weather events. “We really don’t have any time.”
The council discussed among themselves various options available for digital services and streaming networks, with McDonald informing them that the older population tends to stay with what’s been around for a while.
“I haven’t had Suddenlink in years and don’t know that I would go back,” Alderman Neal Pankey said. “It’s like they have no one looking over their shoulders.”
“What I expect is they’re a private company and we can’t tell them how to run their business,” City Attorney Rob Ratton said, when asked about the possibility of an injunction. “In an injunction, you have to find there is irreparable harm.”
Stewart again assured that the issue would be discussed in depth with KAIT8 to find out where negotiations stand and if there is any possibility of reversal.
In other business:
- A resolution was tabled for discussion at the next meeting that recognizes the opioid epidemic. Mayor Stewart advised it reminded him of the tobacco lawsuit years ago and he was unsure if the city needed to be involved in litigation.
- The council was advised that Arkansas State Police Troop B headquarters would be temporarily housed in the old armory building which is owned by the City of Newport while their current facility is demolished and rebuilt.