This paper has actively covered the cable license renewal negotiations between Comcast and the towns on Martha’s Vineyard since those discussions started in early 2011, including the request of a small number of citizens to bring Comcast services to the island of Chappaquiddick, as a condition of a new agreement.
We should set forth a few facts to set the context. No one disputes that a $2 million investment is required to build out the island of Chappaquiddick. Similarly, there is agreement that there are only about 500 homes on the island, and we understand that fewer than 20 percent of those homes are occupied on a year-round basis.
We think most observers would agree that a $2 million capital investment for this buildout is financially questionable. Nevertheless, in view of the strong opinions expressed, Comcast’s latest offer to the board of selectmen does provide several options to the selectmen for a buildout of Chappaquiddick. These types of options are quite common, and we have successfully worked with other communities facing similar desires and challenges, enabling us to serve additional homes we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to connect to our network. So, at this point, it is essentially a matter of allocation of resources, and the decision whether to allocate the capital dollars available to a buildout of Chappaquiddick or to other pressing Island concerns is up to the selectmen.
Despite the disproportionate attention on Chappaquiddick, there are other important elements of the franchise agreement that positively impact all Islanders, including a generous financial package that includes franchise fees of approximately $5 million and half a million dollars in capital payments. Comcast remains committed to delivering on its strong and proven track record of product innovation and community support on Martha’s Vineyard. Our customers on Martha’s Vineyard are at the forefront of the latest technology and product innovations, contributing to what the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable has called “the highest concentration of broadband anywhere in the Commonwealth.”
As the franchise renewal negotiations continue, they will undoubtedly be the focus of additional discussions and media attention. We hope the above helps residents understand one of the topics being addressed, and reinforces Comcast’s deep commitment to serving and supporting Martha’s Vineyard.
Steve Hackley is senior vice president of Comcast’s Greater Boston Region.