A new cable company could start operating at Concord as early as February

Concord could have competing cable TV systems as early as February if the city approves Atlantic Broadband’s contract request, which some may not see soon enough.

“I am a fan of this competition and I hope it will translate into a drop in the cost of these services,” Denis O’Connell, a resident of the city, told city council in a public hearing on Monday. . “We need competition. “

Atlantic Broadband, the US arm of Canadian company Cogego Communications, wants to build a fiber-to-the-home network across the city, according to Monday’s presentation by Nadine Heinan, the company’s director of regional operations.

Bringing internet signals to homes via fiber optics was once a small part of online service due to cost, but a recent surge fueled by pandemic demand and government support is rapidly expanding it. Telephone company Consolidated Communications is bringing fiber to the home in dozens of towns in southern New Hampshire, replacing slower internet service on copper lines, while the city of Bristol has captured the region’s attention on a public-private network which puts fiber at home in a number of communities in the region.

This expansion threatens the control that cable television companies have long exercised over high-speed Internet service. In many places in the United States, including much of New Hampshire, cable broadband modems have long been the best choice for home broadband Internet service.

Atlantic Broadband already serves 34 cities in New Hampshire through a regional operations center in Rochester, New Hampshire, which also manages Maine. It has about 1,400 US employees, including 224 in New Hampshire and Maine, as well as contractors, Heinan said.

Atlantic Broadband is the nation’s eighth largest cable company with customers in 12 states. It continues to expand, after having bought a cable operator in Ohio.

It advertises symmetrical Internet service with speeds of 1 gigabit, or 1000 megabits, and options up to 10 gigabits. Heinan recognized that the future business model of cable companies will be based more on Internet service than on traditional cable television service.

Concord is halfway through its current 10-year contract with Comcast, which has been the city’s sole cable TV provider for decades. Comcast’s business is increasingly dependent on Internet service through its cable modems, which can provide 1 gigabit service.

Much of Monday’s brief public hearing on the application revolved around two issues that tend to dominate consumers’ interest in their cable company: price and service.

“One of the main concerns is the cost to the consumer. I’ve spoken to people in Laconia, there’s an indication your costs are significantly lower than Comcast, ”Ward 6 Councilor Linda Kenison said.

Under the state’s cable franchise law, Concord has no say in the prices that providers charge, the channels it provides, or its Internet service. Concord does have a say in overall service and reliability, however, and several advisers have questioned whether the addition of Concord would overwhelm the company’s service department and whether a service center could be built in the city. Heinan was evasive on the last point.

The proposal is open for public comment until October 4. Comments can be sent to [email protected]

The issue will be addressed by city council at its Oct. 12 meeting, when it can determine viability and authorize the city manager to enter into contract negotiations. This contract is to be similar to Comcast’s in most ways, including things like connections for city buildings and schools, and cable channels.

Glenn Patch, construction manager for Atlantic Broadband, said he was leasing space on utility poles so the company could thread cables if the city signs a franchise deal. Access to poles, which either belong to the telephone company or the power company, has often been a barrier for telecommunications companies.

Patch said Atlantic Broadband could start recruiting customers in certain neighborhoods as early as February and that connecting the whole city would take about a year if all went well, he said. The company estimated that all of the work at Concord, including building a connection hub on Sheep Davis Road, would cost $ 28 million.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or [email protected] or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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