Councilors Urge Pitch to Attract Verizon Fios to City

Haverhill city councilors are pushing to bring high-speed, fiber optic internet and television to the city.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Haverhill city councilors Tuesday will revisit the possibility of bringing competition to local cable and internet provider Comcast and renew calls for Mayor James J. Fiorentini to reconvene the city’s Cable Advisory Committee.

On Tuesday’s meeting agenda, council President John A. Michitson, Vice President Melinda E. Barrett and Councilor Colin F. LePage say “Haverhill needs a next generation fiber optic network.” The presentation is called, “Don’t be a Settler,” according to documents provided to WHAV. Councilors will make the case a fiber optic network, such as Verizon Fios, will boost economic development by lowering business costs and improving services, drive down residential internet and television costs with the introduction of competition and benefit “education, entrepreneurship, families and governance.”

City Councilor Melinda E. Barrett.

City Councilor Melinda E. Barrett.

The presentation is expected to conclude the city develop an “incremental implementation plan,” first within the downtown’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) district and business parks before expansion through “take-off points into neighborhoods.” It will also recommend the city “form a delegation led by Fiorentini” before a “pitch to Verizon regional president.”

Potential barriers, according to documents, include a “large upfront investment by the city” for a municipal fiber network, and pose funding options such as grants, public-private partnerships or public utility bonding “payable over decades as subscribers offset the initial costs.” Also, the city would be asked to form a pool, or “demand aggregate” of customers, as well as provide “comprehensive, rapid permitting” and “easy access” to utility right of ways. The presentation acknowledges alternative providers, such as Verizon, want “non-onerous franchise fees.” Comcast cable subscribers pay such franchise fees monthly to finance virtually the entire cost of operating Haverhill Community Television.

Councilors Call for New Cable TV Talks

Haverhill City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan.

Haverhill City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan.

Meanwhile, as the city’s current 10-year “open” contract with Comcast is set to expire in 2019, Barrett, LePage and Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan request a renewed discussion for “re-establishment of the Cable Advisory Committee and related matters.” The panel normally holds public hearings and makes recommendations during new cable contract negotiations. In 2009, Fiorentini signed the city’s first “non-exclusive” contract with Comcast to encourage a competing provider to enter the local cable market.

The council last discussed the matter in February, 2015, and, as WHAV reported, Councilor William J. Macek said the forthcoming WHAV FM is “part of the solution” to residents’ lack of access to broadband internet. Michitson, at the time, added Verizon indicated it was “waiting to become profitable in the communities it already serves.”

“They will help us if the opportunity arises again,” Michitson said at the time of Fios.

Previously, as WHAV reported in October, 2014, Fiorentini said despite several invitations and conversations with Verizon officials, “they were not interested.”  At that time, he responded to residents’ grumbling on social media about local cable rates and the inability to draw competition. Verizon, according to Fiorentini at the time, was “not expanding its Fios service in any place, but at some point is going to a satellite system.”

The Haverhill City Council meets at 7 p.m., tonight, in Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. Council Chambers at Haverhill City Hall.

3 thoughts on “Councilors Urge Pitch to Attract Verizon Fios to City

  1. “large upfront investment by the city” –

    Years ago that cost was roughly $10 million, and back then after speaking with Verizon directly, they stated there was no incentive to come to Haverhill. Not sure what has changed except the price.

    CONcast will keep their monopoly status, and once again, Democrats will not call upon their fellow Democrat, Sen. Ed Markey who sits on The Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, to change that paradigm. Of course CONcast is Markey’s 5th best briber, I mean campaign contributor…of all time, just behind lobbyists and a PAC.

    SOLD! The American People!