BRAINTREE – As nearby municipalities are considering entering the internet business, the Braintree Electric Light Department is getting out.
The light commission voted this week to approved the sale of its municipal broadband service to media giant Comcast. The sale price was undisclosed. The sale affects 2,500 customers, and the transition will begin this month.
In a statement, BELD General Manager William Bottiggi said the town-owned utility recently conducted a study which showed a multimillion-dollar investment in the broadband network would be needed over the next few years to maintain quality of service. Since the service is self-supporting, he said that would mean a significant increase in rates.
“We are proud of our 20-year history as a top internet service provider and are sincerely thankful for our customers’ loyalty,” Bottiggi said in a statement. “Our top priority has always been our customers, and we continue to think of their best interests while adjusting to market conditions. After evaluating our options, we are confident the best decision is to connect our business with Comcast’s best in-class network, products, services and customer experience.”
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He said the broadband market has always been competitive, and the coronavirus pandemic has added uncertainty to the market. He said the sale will ensure local customers will receive “reliable, robust service over the long term” while upholding the department’s responsibility to Braintree residents.
Officials in Quincy, Weymouth and Milton are considering setting up municipal broadband services and the recently approved federal infrastructure bill contains $65 million for expanding broadband.
Advocates say making internet a public utility will help millions of Americans without access to internet and lessen the power of “monopolistic” companies such as Comcast, the only provider available to residents in many cities, including Quincy.
The change in Braintree will have no impact on the light department’s electric service, which dates back to 1891.Thomas Watson, the co-inventor of the telephone, was its first manager.
The decision to sell the internet service comes nearly two years to the day after the department discontinued cable television service, citing high programming costs, loss of customers to streaming services and the need to invest in equipment upgrades. The department was down to 2,100 cable customers when it dropped the service.
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The Braintree Electric Light Department has been losing broadband customers over the past two years. The service had roughly 3,000 customers in 2019, which is 500 more than it has now.
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