LACONIA — When the website Stop the Cap published an article two years ago about Comcast’s move to compete head-to-head with Atlantic Broadband here in New Hampshire, it was portrayed as a David vs. Goliath match-up. An illustration of a ferocious Godzilla look-alike, renamed Comzilla, accompanied the article to drive home the point.
Now the match-up is underway here in the Laconia area.
Trucks belonging to Comcast contractors can be spotted daily along the major routes and side streets in Laconia and Gilford, running fiber-optic cable in the hopes that Comcast will be able to lure away Atlantic Broadband customers.
The street-by-street project began last fall and expects to be largely finished by the end of the year, according to Comcast spokesman Marc Goodman.
The company is hoping that its package of services, along with its internet speeds, will get residents and businesses to switch over.
Atlantic Broadband believes that it will be able to hold on to much of its market share because of its state-of-the-art service and a commitment to stable pricing.
The company also feels confident that it will be able to hold its own against Comcast because it is used to direct competition.
“Atlantic Broadband has competed for many years in most of our markets,” spokesman Andrew Walton said.
That competitive situation started about 15 years ago when telephone companies branched out into the fields of TV service and internet, and cable companies started offering telephone service.
Comcast is much larger than Atlantic Broadband by just about any measure. It's the nation’s largest cable provider, with 19 million video subscribers in 40 states. It is the largest provider in New Hampshire, serving 106 communities, with service available to 70 percent of homes statewide.
Atlantic Broadband, on the other hand, has 1 million TV service customers in 11 states along the Atlantic seaboard. It’s ranked as the nation’s seventh largest cable TV provider, according to Business Wire. Its service is available to almost 12 percent of New Hampshire homes, according to data company Best Neighborhood.
Neither company would divulge how many customers it has in the state, saying that is a trade secret.
But the spokesmen for both companies spoke at length about the quality of their respective company’s products.
Walton pointed to Atlantic Broadband’s investment of $30 million over the last three years in its New Hampshire network. He said that investment has paid off during the COVID pandemic. It was able to handle the higher broadband demand that resulted as people started working from home and school children switched to remote instruction.
Goodman said Comcast will be able to offer higher wifi speeds, as well as video services that can be controlled by voice remote. The company will be offering packages that he said will provide cost savings for many customers.
Goodman said Comcast went into the Rochester market — another city already served by Atlantic Broadband — before venturing into the Laconia area. He would not disclose how many customers Comcast picked up, saying only that the company was pleased with the results it got.
Walton said Atlantic Broadband has no plans to alter its pricing structure in response to Comcast.
“We want pricing that’s consistent over a period of time and doesn’t cause dramatic changes in a customer’s bill,” he said.
Walton went on to say that Atlantic Broadband is the “preferred provider” in the markets it services, including those where it is up against competition.
But there are signs that some cable customers are happy that they will soon have a choice.
Marge Linn of Laconia, an Atlantic Broadband customer, told The Daily Sun about the hassle she recently experienced when she upgraded her service, only to then have technical problems which took days to resolve.
“This has been one of the most irritating experiences I have had for a long time,” she wrote in a letter to the paper.
Comcast, too, has had its share of unhappy customers over the years. Its customer satisfaction was ranked the lowest in the industry as recently as 2007, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Goodman, however, said Comcast has an excellent track record when it comes to customer satisfaction. He pointed to Comcast Business being honored just last week as the No. 1 telecommunications provider in the Granite State by New Hampshire Business Review. This makes the 10th year in a row the company has won the award.
As further evidence of the company’s corporate philosophy, he added that Comcast has instituted a program called Internet Essentials, which offers internet service at discounted rates to people who receive entitlement benefits from the federal government.