New optimism for cable, broadband on Chappy


Chappaquiddickers have recognized in the new 10-year Comcast contract the good that’s in it for Islanders generally and for them in particular. Consequently there is welcome news this week, and the contract negotiators for the six towns should take a moment to say “Whew” and congratulate themselves for a deal that has attracted more than the required number of interested Chappy property owners, who want reliable broadband access in their futures.

The new six-town Comcast contract was more than two years in difficult negotiations, and much of the wrangling was over the extension of cable TV and broadband service by the huge media company to the tiny island. Edgartown representatives to the contract talks were determined, on behalf of their Chappy constituents, to find a reasonable solution to the plaguey problem of the estrangement of an important portion of their constituency. Comcast resisted strenuously, and representatives from the other five towns were sympathetic but, naturally enough, less passionate.

On Chappaquiddick, the mood was truculent. Residents wanted to have Comcast service, they knew they ought to have it, but the cost, they also knew, might be forbiddingly steep.

As Chappy folk expected, the deal is expensive. There’s an upfront, one-time fee of more than $2,000 and a required commitment from each subscriber for two years of service. And, it may cost more to have service delivered to houses far off the beaten track.

The trigger for the deal was a threshold of 270 property owners, who needed to say by October 1 that they were interested. When time expired, 278 had signed on.

Several steps remain, as Comcast surveys the job and property owners survey their bank accounts, but if it works out, the tiny island may have service in place by 2016.

At its heart, this is good news simply because, as Woody Filley, a Chappy resident and devoted supporter of the need for broadband service, said at a meeting of Chappy association members, “We have to have reliable high-speed Internet. Let’s really think about what will be five or ten years down the line. A lot of people will be going to the doctor right from their home. Ten years ago, think about it, you had to drive to the Steamship and stand in line to get your ticket, or even more annoying, try to do it on the phone. People say this is about TV, but TV isn’t the issue here. We’re talking about Internet. We’re talking about bundled services that might actually save you money. If this conversation was taking place 100 years ago, it would be like discussing if we should have indoor plumbing or outdoor plumbing. This is essential for children, for education, and for business. We’ll have to wait at least ten years if we don’t get it right this time.”

Mr. Filley’s argument remains the most powerful endorsement of the need for this deal, of the efforts of the six-town negotiators to get it, of Edgartown town administrator Pam Dolby’s hard work to get to 270, and of the clarity of Chappaquiddickers looking ahead in a quickly moving, technological world that, willy-nilly, they cannot evade.