TOWNSEND -- Negotiations with Comcast will, after all, be headed up by a cable committee.
A dearth of interest in recent weeks caused the selectmen to take action and hold the first public hearing to consider contract renewal, which expires on Aug. 17. At the meeting on July 17, several residents of the Vinton Pond Road area, who lack service, decided to form a committee.
William Hewig, a representative from Kopelman and Paige, said "a committee of people who are dedicated to meet periodically" works.
"It doesn't matter the size, as long as they're committed or dedicated. The best way it works is active citizen participation." he said.
According to residents in attendance, areas on Vinton Pond, New Fitchburg and parts of Bayberry Hill roads are having access issues.
"This time and age when children need the Internet to do homework, we only have dial-up," said Emily Norton, who lives on Vinton Pond Road.
Diane and Jerry Racette, also of Vinton Pond Road, said they have children in high school and college too, and that the lack of services isn't a new problem.
Telephone poles need to be high enough to keep wires that carry phone, Internet and cable services at least 14 feet above the road, explained Town Administrator Andy Sheehan.
"The pole space is not their responsibility, power companies have an obligation to do that," Sheehan said.
In this case, Unitil owns the poles, he added.
"Officials at Unitil said they
Tyler Road resident Steve Cloutier, a member of the committee, said the pole-height issue was raised again and again during the last renewal 10 years ago.
Another problem effecting Vinton Pond Road is resident density, Sheehan added. Comcast requires a certain amount of houses to be within a given road mile to extend service.
"There are ways around it," Cloutier said. "It's not to their benefit to deliver the services when there are not enough houses, but, for example, if three houses got together and bought seven services, they would."
The pole issue, however, is "the issue," said Cloutier. Hewig agreed, saying Comcast only regulates part of what is coming through the cables, too. TV is regulated, Internet and telephony is not, but they're profitable.
"Headway can be made, if a work order needs to be issued to deal with the poles, it is negotiable," Hewig said. "A committee is the best way to go about cable negotiations. Nothing is more destructive when we have meeting and no one shows up."
After the committee formed, mostly through soliciting volunteers from the audience to join Cloutier, Selectman Sue Lisio said the situation was ironic.
"We have been mentioning this, but none of us even stopped to think, none of them would be able to watch us," she said. "But we need to be involved and committed, someday, sometime to have to put in some time to make things happen."
Selectman Robert Plamondon said the board "will do anything in our power to support a revitalized cable committee."
The board plans to appoint the Cable TV Advisory Committee at their next meeting.
Follow Luke at twitter.com/lsnashobapub.