NORTH SHORE – Residents of Amesbury, Haverhill, Merrimac and Salisbury may soon have a choice in what company brings cable TV, Internet and phone services into their homes and businesses.
Breezeline, formerly Atlantic Broadband, has applied to several North Shore towns and cities for a license to install its fiber optics directly to the customer and compete with Comcast, which has been the sole cable TV, phone and Internet provider. The municipalities’ contracts with Comcast are not exclusive, said town manager Neil Harrington.
The Breezeline hub for the four municipalities would be at 54 Lafayette Rd. in Salisbury.
“We are anxious to get into Massachusetts,” Nadine Hynan, the Breezeline regional operations manager, told the Salisbury Board of Selectmen last week. “We’ve invested a lot of money in Massachusetts.”
Breezeline is scheduled to meet with the Amesbury City Council and Merrimac Board of Selectmen this week and the Salisbury selectmen again for a public hearing at 7:15 p.m. on July 18.
The company, headquartered in Quincy, is the nation’s eighth-largest cable operator, providing services in 12 East Coast states from Florida to Maine. It recently acquired WOW, a cable operator in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio.
According to Bob States, a Breezeline market development manager, the advantages Breezeline offers over Comcast is that it delivers its content by fiber optics directly to the cable box. Comcast, he said, delivers the content by fiber optics to the utility pole outside the home and then by co-axial cable to the box inside the home or business.
“Ours is a more robust service,” States said. By using fiber optics to the box, Internet speeds and cable TV content will be faster, he said.
Breezeline also provides what it calls “straight up billing,” which includes “no hidden fees.”
Harrington said the contract with Breezeline would be “almost identical” to the contract with Comcast.
On rates, States said only that Breezeline would be “competitive” with Comcast. It would compete for Comcast customers by providing more reliable service and a better billing system.
When asked about negative customer reviews online, Hynan said the Breezeline had experienced staffing shortages during the Covid-19 Pandemic. The company has hired hundreds of customer representatives in recent months. And it has developed a customer service app, entitled “My Breezeline,” that allows customers to reprogram their own cable boxes and check bills and status of equipment.
If approved to provide service to the North Shore municipalities, Breezeline would have to provide access to local community television stations.
Lance Wisniewski, executive director for Salisbury Community TV & Media Center, told The Town Common that Breezeline would have to match the same terms Comcast has. For capital, equipment and facilities, Breezeline would have to pay the same $250,000 over 10 years. For operating costs, it would have to match the 5 percent gross TV revenues that Comcast pays.
But Wisniewski said that could be “a zero-sum game” with Breezeline taking customers from Comcast.
In general, the number of cable TV customers has been declining in recent years as viewers gravitate to other, lower cost alternatives for cable TV.
In other community services, Breezeline has launched a series of online community education initiatives designed to foster digital literacy among seniors while supporting online safety and a healthy tech-life balance.