HC Media has a satellite studio in the Harbor Place building at the corner of Merrimack Street and the Basiliere Bridge.
If the comments at Monday’s Cable TV Advisory Committee are any indication, Haverhill residents are much happier with their community-access television stations than with the corporation that provides the city’s cable service.
The committee is beginning its review of Comcast’s contract with the city in advance of an anticipated request for a new 10-year license beginning in 2019.
Resident complaints about Comcast ranged from service outages to slow internet to untrained technicians. But mostly, residents asked for competition from other providers.
“I feel Comcast has become complacent because they’re the only game in town,” said customer Mary F. Drayton of Franklin Street.
James Mamonas said he and Comcast’s technicians are on a first-name basis because of the number of times he has called about trouble with the service at his Washington Street condo. He described his service as “nothing but a nightmare. My cable doesn’t work; my phone doesn’t work; my email doesn’t work.”
But complaints about Comcast were far outnumbered by praise for local-access station HC Media. Members of the general public were joined by representatives of business, charitable, community, educational and religious organizations in unanimous support of the efforts of the local-access service.
In the last year, Comcast distributed about $900,000 to Haverhill Community Television, also known as HC Media, for operation of public access, government and education channels. The city receives about $240,000 annually in fees.
James P. Cleary, president of the HC Media Board of Directors, said this is an especially exciting time for the local access channel, which has built a studio in the new Harbor Place building downtown, where it will partner with Northern Essex Community College to offer TV production courses and open its studio to the public for live performances.
The level of praise led Kathy Drive resident Diane Murad to wonder whether Comcast’s license renewal was a done deal, given that Comcast financially supports HC Media.
Committee members said the company and the local-access channel are mutually exclusive. Any contract, no matter the company, would include a funding agreement for community access to the cable system.
Residents’ wishes for a competing company to seek a license are unlikely to come true, committee members said. Many residents suggested the city try to interest Verizon in bring its Fios service here, but committee members said the company is not expanding its services to any new areas and few cable companies are interested in the expense of installing an entirely new cable system to compete in cities that are already serviced by another provider, they said.