Comcast's challenges in Vail and on Martha's Vineyard

Tom Paine

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I try to keep up with Comcast's ongoing efforts to satisfy its cable subscribers in the tony locations of Martha's Vineyard and Vail. Its a high pressure situation for Comcast to keep their many high-profile and powerful residents, who are not reluctant to push back, happy. Because of geographic isolation, low population density, and the fact that so many residents are seasonal, it may be difficult and expensive to match the quality of services residents receive in the larger towns where many have primary residences. And ironically, Comcast Chairman & CEO Brian Roberts has a residence on the Vineyard and by all reports (such as FCC records on Comcast's jet fleet usage) spends considerable time there during the year.

In Vail, the Town Council just gave preliminary approval to new 10-year franchise agreement between the town and Comcast. This comes after a long struggle since the previous agreement expired in 2010 and town officials demanded improvements before a new agreement would be approved. Vail residents basically wanted the same level of service that Denver residents receive, the Vail Daily reported. Jeff Dolan, Vice President of Regulatory and Government Affairs for Comcast's Mile High Region, told council members the company had delivered on the promises it made, according to the Daily. Upgrades included increased use of fiber optics, a switch over from analog to digital service, more channel capacity and faster internet speeds.

A remaining outstanding issue is Vail's desire to see Universal Sports, which is heavy on skiing coverage, included in the basic package (apparently its not available at all at present). Comcast's NBCUniversal has a minority interest in the channel, along with majority owner InterMedia Partners.

On Martha's Vineyard, the plan is for Comcast and local power utility NSTAR to install a new underseas cable to the island, the Martha's Vineyard Times reported. Three of the four existing cables have been unreliable.

Comcast's other major outstanding issue there is providing service to Chappaquiddick, an island located a few hundred feet off the coast of Martha's Vineyard with only 500 homes, only a small percentage of which are occupied by full-time residents.
Comcast has said cabling the island, which is within the same jurisdiction as the town of Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard, would cost $1.5 million. Comcast's latest proposal calls for Chappaquiddick residents to pick up more than half of that outlay. Martha's Vineyard towns have been holding up approval of a new contract pending resolution of the Chappaquiddick situation and other issues.


Philly Tech People News 12/9/2012

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