Comcast plans to expand to New Bloomfield

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Comcast plans to bring its cable and internet services to New Bloomfield in the coming months if the borough council agrees, representatives from the telecommunications company said at the May 3 meeting.

“We are here to ask the board to consider signing a franchise agreement with Comcast,” said Jennifer Frees, senior director of government affairs.

Franchise agreements are part of the legality allowing telecommunications companies to use public rights of way to bring their services – cable television, landline telephones or the Internet – into new areas. They are not exclusive by law, Frees said.

Comcast is in a market expansion phase and plans to roll out its cable/internet lines to about 109 residents and businesses in the borough, she said. The lines would be aerial, that is to say above the ground and collocated on existing electricity poles in the borough. The lines would be a hybrid of fiber optic and coaxial copper cable.

In April, the borough’s website designer told council that Comcast was speaking with local officials about the expansion in Perry County. However, the company declined to comment other than to say it had nothing to announce at this time.

The borough council did not approve any deal at the meeting, saying it needed to consider legal issues before voting. The borough has a franchise agreement with Zito Media, which in recent years acquired the former Nittany Media. The company is the main cable and Internet provider in the borough.

“We will have to review this contract as well as yours,” board chair Malinda Anderson said.

There is time to waste with the problem.

Frees said Comcast is still in the investigation process to outline its technical needs to bring the service across the borough. Once he has a franchise agreement, the “make ready” phase to get the utility poles ready would take about six months. Full installation and connections would take 18-24 months.

“We went down a path that we thought was a smart path,” Frees said.

The cable should arrive on Carlisle Street, then follow a route through several side streets before exiting the city. The borough council has a map of the proposed route, but the company said the map is not yet finalized.

Where plastic conduit exists for other services, Comcast could use it to run cable underground for connection to customers. Otherwise, the line would be connected overhead.

The company said it is funding the expansion of its service area in New Bloomfield. This could impact the expansion of rural broadband elsewhere in the county, but it’s not yet clear exactly how.

“Comcast has spoken with the county about rural broadband and is requesting public funds to expand,” Christine Rich, also of Comcast, said at the meeting.

Perry County has about $9 million in federal funds it can use for such projects. The county wants to invest some of its money in improving high-speed internet in underserved areas of the county. It also examines other infrastructure needs.

The commissioners spoke with several companies about these issues and potential projects in the near future, including traditional internet providers such as CenturyLink and Zito, as well as new companies like Upward Broadband, a Lancaster County company that uses the technology wireless to bring broadband to difficult geographic areas.

The infrastructure law that Congress and President Joe Biden worked on last year also includes funds for states to improve broadband infrastructure. Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission has awarded funds to various technology and telecommunications companies to improve Internet capabilities in underserved areas.

Jim T. Ryan can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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