Monday, April 30, 2007

How Comcast perpetuates broadband black holes

Even though it’s now free to expand its service area and apply for a statewide franchise from the California Public Utilities Commission, so far cable provider Comcast has not. It could be because it prefers to remain under existing franchises issued by local governments that impose no future build out requirements. California’s Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 (AB 2987), signed into law last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, allows cable providers to do so if they choose.

In El Dorado County, for example, county supervisors sold out their constituents’ interests by allowing Comcast to operate under an urban gridline model. That component of the franchise agreement between Comcast and the county requires service only be provided only in areas where a large number of homes exist as measured by linear road mile.

The problem is El Dorado County isn’t laid out that way. There are many curved roads that measured linearly are longer than relatively straight roads with too few homes to meet the minimum under the franchise agreement. They connect neighborhoods that might otherwise qualify for service since they have same approximate density of homes as those situated along relatively straight thoroughfares.

Comcast could extend service to these cut off areas, but declines to make the investment necessary to reach them. It insists on sticking with an urban gridline model that’s inappropriate for a place like El Dorado County and only serves to perpetuate the many broadband black holes that exist there.

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