Comcast introduces itself in West Tisbury
Martha's Vineyard residents will begin seeing new Comcast cable bills, signs, trucks and uniforms on the Island by mid-November, Comcast officials told West Tisbury selectmen last week.
The officials from the cable company's New England region appeared before the selectmen to assure them that the Vineyard's cable services would continue and even improve. The company recently took over the Adelphia cable system on the Island and in 18 other areas. Adelphia has been in bankruptcy protection for four years.
"We're committed to the best in customer service," said Lou Russo, director of Comcast's government relations board. "We do believe in local management," she said, and introduced Mary O'Keeffe, who will be the first point of contact for the Vineyard, working out of Mashpee.
Tom Coughlin, regional vice president for Comcast's southeast Massachusetts region, also stressed customer service, noting that Comcast has five call centers in New England and is adding two more.
Mr. Coughlin said the company realizes some improvements are needed to make the Vineyard's cable system more reliable. Comcast is exploring alternatives to improve the current fiber optic feeds to the Island, he said.
"There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work now," Mr. Coughlin said. "Lots of good things are being planned."
The selectmen and several residents sought some reassurances from the Comcast officials about the service.
Selectmen Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter asked about the company's municipal services. Ms. Russo assured him Comcast would continue to provide monthly free service to the libraries, schools, and municipal buildings, including free Internet service.
Mr. Coughlin also said Comcast has no plans to raise service rates. "We know we're in a competitive market," he said, referring to satellite TV and Verizon DSL, among others.
When Mr. Manter asked about the possibility of "a la carte" rates, where individual customers can choose specific programming, Mr. Coughlin said that it is an appealing idea, but poses contractual, equipment, and other problems. "It's not as simple as pulling a switch," he said.
Several people spoke in support of retaining the three local government access channels, noting how important they are, especially to remote and homebound residents.
Ms. Russo said there are no immediate plans to change those channels. She explained that cable companies are required to allocate five percent of gross revenues to local television programming.
Mr. Coughlin said he was impressed with the MTV stations and added, "We're big supporters of local programming and we'll make sure it's viable.
"We'll honor our commitment to the town and customers," Mr. Coughlin said. "I think you will find a huge difference between Adelphia and Comcast. There is lots of work we need to do. We can't do it overnight."