LACONIA — Many consumers are elated by the prospect of a cable war pitting a newcomer, Comcast, against the incumbent, Atlantic Broadband.
More than two dozen people left comments on The Daily Sun’s Facebook page supporting Comcast’s request to enter the Laconia market. Others sent in emails.
“Competition for cable services is very much needed in our area,” Werner Rebsamen said in an email. “At $217 a month for services we hardly use, it is simply too much, especially for seniors on fixed incomes.
“With cable services for phone, Internet and TV being so high, many of my friends have cut off their cable connection and now use Netflix and TracFone services.”
The Daily Sun reported Saturday that Comcast had filed a draft franchise agreement with Laconia to offer service in the city. If granted, this would put Comcast into direct local competition with Atlantic Broadband.
It’s somewhat unusual for more than one cable company to serve a community, but Comcast has gone into competition with the incumbent provider in a few Northeast towns and cities including Rochester, New Hampshire, which is also served by Atlantic Broadband.
Lennart Swenson Jr. said in an email that he was pleased to read the story.
“My heart and wallet skipped a beat,” he said. “When we had Comcast, at our last home, they provided superior service and more options for less money than Atlantic Broadband! Comcast was also easier to contact and provided quicker service than has been our experience with Atlantic.”
Comcast is the nation’s largest cable company. Atlantic Broadband is No. 9.
Heather McCallion, Atlantic Broadband’s vice president for products and programming and Courtney Long, vice president for customer care, said in a telephone interview Monday that the company has been working hard to make a seamless transition after its purchase a year ago of MetroCast, the cable company that previously served Laconia.
They also said Atlantic Broadband has made significant improvements and boosted Internet speeds.
“We’ve had competitors, with Dish and Directv, so it’s not new to have competition,” McCallion said. “In some cases, the idea of two providers in one franchise is new, but it doesn’t matter.
“We are changing constantly as it relates to our product pipeline, making it easier for customers. We did a ton of investment in building out our infrastructure.”
City Manager Scott Myers said having two cable television companies locally could be a benefit to consumers looking for good value and increased options. The City Council decision on whether to grant a franchise to Comcast will be based on its ability to show financial strength and technical ability, standards it should be able to meet.
Some consumers complain that Atlantic Broadband prices are low at signup, but increase significantly over time. Others said they had trouble reaching company representatives.
Long, the Atlantic Broadband vice president, said the company maintains a 24-7 contact center in Rochester that has employees for support, sales and service.
“We’re happy to say that, based on growth throughout the country, we are hiring for sales and support positions,” she said.
Long said wait times vary for consumers who call in, but that there is an option to request a callback and there are opportunities to email or chat online.
“I’m hearing phone calls all day long,” she said. “Competition can help reinforce that we need to focus on basics, reliable services, that we show up when we say we will and that we respond quickly. That’s our responsibility.”
McCallion said low price points to new customers are typical in the industry.
“At Atlantic Broadband, we are looking at pricing, packaging and value propositions to meet customers where they are,” she said.