I’d like to update you on our progress with Comcast. The town has negotiated a franchise agreement with Comcast and will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, December 11, at 6:30 pm in the Selectboard Office. The franchise agreement is essentially a license to Comcast to offer television service in Worthington. It does not govern their ability to provide broadband or telephone service. As mentioned in the post last summer, though broadband service is largely unregulated, in order to receive the construction subsidy from the state and town, Comcast has signed a 15-year agreement with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) that obligates them to provide broadband service. Similarly, the TV franchise agreement is for 15 years. We expect to sign the agreement shortly after the hearing.
In addition, the town has reached an agreement on coverage with Comcast. As you’ll recall, the agreement that Comcast signed with the MBI and the vote we took at Annual Town Meeting obligated them to reach at least 96% of the residences in Worthington. When we first met with Comcast in September, after they’d done their pole survey and preliminary engineering work, they presented us with a proposed list of addresses they would and would not reach. Not surprisingly, they included 96.1% of the town, which left out about 27 residences.
After we sat down and went over their map and plan, they made some revisions and got the percentage up to 97.7%, leaving out 16 addresses. Two of those addresses do not currently have any utilities and we don’t expect to ask the town to pay the cost to bring them service. The others are largely on the edges of town and are houses at the end of roads, 4,000 feet or further from where Comcast is ending service. They are at the end of River Rd., West St., Sam Hill Rd., Bashen Hill Rd., Parish Rd., Rida Rd. and in the middle of Lindsay Hill where there are no utilities. Here’s a link to the complete list.
Throughout this process, the Broadband Committee, Municipal Light Board and Select Board have consistently had the goal of making service available to as close to 100% of the residences and businesses in Worthington as possible. As part of the agreement Comcast signed with the MBI and our agreement with the MBI and Comcast, they are required to tell us the cost to reach the remaining addresses. We expect to get that figure from them by spring. Once we know that cost, we expect to come to either a Special or Annual Town meeting and ask for an appropriation, probably from Stabilization, to fund that. So ultimately, we hope to at least make broadband accessible to virtually everyone in town who wants it.
So what’s the schedule? The franchise agreement process did take a little longer than expected, but we’re not too far off schedule. The next step is for Comcast to apply for space on the poles with Verizon and Eversource. I believe that process has already started. Then it’s largely in Verizon and Eversource’s hands to get their work done. Mostly it’s Verizon that has to move their wires down to make room for Comcast. In some cases poles will need to be replaced which of course involves all the utilities that are on those poles. There are also some third parties like the MBI 123 Network who are on some poles going through town and may also need to move their cables. Ideally that work will get done by spring and then Comcast can start hanging their cables. I believe that, to some degree, that can happen concurrently. Comcast has said that they will start offering service as they build. So we could start receiving service for some as soon as next summer and for everyone by the end of 2019. On the other hand, Comcast is only obligated to complete the build by July 2020.
That’s where we’re at. I’ll do my best to continue to keep you updated. Also, another reminder, that if you made a $49 deposit with WiredWest, you can receive a refund. In order to fulfill the legal requirement to have funds removed from the escrow account where the deposits are now held, WiredWest must hear from you directly and in writing. Email does not satisfy this requirement.
Please mail a written, signed request to:
Old Courthouse; 99 Main St; Northampton MA 01060
Include the name and service address used when your deposit was originally made. You should expect to receive your refund with interest within 2-3 weeks of WiredWest receiving your written request.
If you should have problems with that or need any help please let me know. And as always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Selectboard Chair & Cable Liaison
You can also reach the Cable Advisory Committee and Selectboard at firstname.lastname@example.org