Friday, August 15, 2003
Residents press Comcast to wire all homes
About 250, or 16% of the roughly 1,600 houses in Carlisle, remain without cable access after Comcast finished upgrades to support high-speed Internet service this past spring. Many of the un-wired households desire cable access but have been unable to obtain it from Comcast. At the July 29 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, residents shared their frustrations with Comcast manager of government and community relations, Rob Travers.
Comcast took over from AT&T Broadband last November as the town's cable provider. The cable company serves about two million customers in New England. Travers appeared before the Selectmen to deliver an annual cable status report, as specified by the town's license agreement.
Darice Wareham, Chair of the town's Cable Communications Advisory Committee, said that most people who have cable access have been pleased with the upgrade, but asked why more homes were not included. Travers said that all homes that previously had cable were upgraded, as well as some additional homes. Those homes that still cannot obtain cable access are in areas that were never wired.
Wiring map versus density requirement
Wareham displayed a wiring map which was provided by AT&T and is included as part of the license agreement. The map showed that many additional streets would be wired during the upgrade. She said the Cable Committee negotiated under the assumption that the entire town would have access to cable service after the upgrade. Wareham asked Travers why the map's description of the upgrade did not agree with Comcast's.
Travers pointed out that the license also stipulates a density requirement of 30 homes per mile before Comcast must provide wiring. He noted that the density is calculated along Comcast's chosen route, so that homes on Martin Street, for instance, do not meet the criterion even though they are very near the 1/4-acre-lot homes across the border in Chelmsford. Travers admitted that the density test contradicted the information on the map.
A partial list of homes without cable includes scattered homes on West Street, Judy Farm Road, River Road, some private ways, Prospect Street, Nowell Farme Road, Stearns Street, Rutland Street, and about 42 homes in the North Road-Curve Street-Cranberry Hill- Martin Street area.
In areas where the density is "marginal," Travers said that Comcast would look at other factors, such as the number of interested households in an area and their willingness to share the cost of wiring the street. Travers suggested that Comcast might undertake market surveys and estimate construction costs for wiring the unserved areas. He asked that those interested in obtaining service contact Comcast.
At this point many people in the audience shared stories of how they had contacted Comcast without success. Those that spoke primarily sought high-speed Internet access rather than cable television service. Christie Barbee of Cranberry Hill Lane said that she has talked to "at least a dozen people" at Comcast, getting different answers from different customer service representatives.
George Senkler called himself "one of the Curve Street orphans," and said, "I'm very shocked and disappointed that the contract was negotiated and extended without addressing" the areas that have not been served. He said that there are a lot of people with home offices who need high-speed Internet access. "This isn't upstate Vermont. We expect that in this year in this town we should have modern communications through the whole town." The audience applauded.
The Board of Selectmen agreed to check into the legal question of the map and license contradiction. The board asked Travers to work with Wareham on a plan to serve more houses. When contacted later by the Mosquito, Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie said the results will be discussed at the Selectmen's meeting on September 9. A copy of the cable wiring map is available for examination at the Town Administrator's office in Town Hall.
McKenzie praised the work of Carlisle's Cable Communications Advisory Committee. She said they thoroughly researched the town's limited options during the licensing negotiations, and "served the town better than many similar committees in other towns."
The Cable Committee has vacancies and Wareham said that new members would be most welcome. To contact her, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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