Utility pole upgrades may signal possible alternative to high-speed Internet access and bundled services
The Princeton Broadband Committee has begun discussions with the region’s leading cable providers regarding the possibility of bring high-speed Internet, telephone and television service to residential homes and businesses. The committee is taking this action as a matter of due diligence to explore all possible alternatives for Princeton. Both Charter Communications and Comcast have expressed interest in meeting with the committee regarding installing their own communication systems and offering bundled services that residents can choose to purchase.
The committee invited Thomas Cohan, director of government relations at Charter Communications in Worcester to its Oct. 23 meeting. Cohan explained that Princeton has not been considered a good option for cable installation due to significant issues related to its aging utility poles. The company’s first decision to bypass Princeton was in 1992 but Cohan did state that much has changed since then.
A positive aftermath of the 2008 ice storm has been PMLD’s aggressive replacement of many of the town’s utility poles that were damaged beyond repair. At the committee’s request, a Comcast construction crew recently revisited Princeton and now believes there is a potential for a cable installation project.
Cohan explained that if Princeton decides to issue a request for proposals, Charter could be interested particularly because the company currently provides its services in neighboring Holden and Hubbardston.
According to Charter’s rate schedule posted on its website, their standard 30 megabyte speed Internet is $50-$60 a month. When combined with telephone and cable television, residents can expect to pay about $90 per month for the bundled “triple play” services.
An obstacle for Charter should they come to Princeton is their installation standard of requiring a density of 25 houses per road mile. Using this guideline, a Charter cable installation here could mean that only the denser roads would be served. Cohan explained that there some homes in both Holden and Hubbardston not currently included in their service due to their remoteness.
Selecting a cable company is a decision usually made by the town’s board of selectmen with input from the public. The town would then have to issue a cable franchise authorizing the company to build a system and offer services it to residents. Cohan mentioned that because of Charter’s commitment to an aggressive upgrading schedule, it could not take on an installation project in Princeton until 2015.
Members of the committee have also contacted Verizon, which declined the invitation to participate in further discussions. Comcast, which currently provides services in Sterling, has expressed an interest in the project and plans on sending a representation to a broadband committee meeting in the near future.
The committee also remains focused on the plan to bring high-speed fiber optic Internet to the premises with municipally supported funding. Network design is expected soon, which will allow the committee to seek vendor input on network construction, network maintenance, and Internet Service Providers to determine those costs.
Stay tuned! We will keep you informed of our discussions with Comcast and Charter on this website as they occur.