Charter, Cox debate heats up online

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, March 7, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The question of adding more cable television and Internet providers has erupted on Nextdoor Historic Smithfield, a new social media site that features Isle of Wight County residents. 

Some were willing to start a petition drive in an effort to bring Cox Communications to Isle of Wight County.

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Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said the county has a franchise agreement with Charter Communications, but other providers are welcome to come to the county too. 

However, new providers would have to adhere to the same conditions that Charter follows in the franchise agreement, which is part of the county’s ordinances, Robertson said. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

For example, another provider would have to serve the entire county and not “cherry pick” higher density areas, such as Smithfield or Carrollton, Robertson said. 

The agreement, enacted in 2012, is good for 10 years and covers television programming. While Charter also provides Internet service, the franchise agreement does not address that specifically. 

The ordinance also stipulates that Charter is not required to provide service where the household density is less than 30 houses per mile from the nearest point on the company’s system. 

Robertson said he spoke with Cox a few years ago about coming to the county, but the company said its mostly rural demographic did not fit the company’s business model. 

Robertson said it would probably take more than 100 signatures — as suggested by one resident — to get a company to make that level of investment, such as infrastructure.

Cox spokesperson Sarah Buck said Cox has no plans to extend residential service to Isle of Wight at this time. 

As for 100 signatures being triggering service, Buck said that was not correct.

“Unfortunately, your contact received incorrect information. There are many factors that guide these types of decisions; however right now Cox is focused on investing in the current network and does not have plans to expand to Isle of White County at this time,” Buck said.

Cox currently provides service right across the James River Bridge in Newport News. 

Prior to signing the agreement with Charter, Isle of Wight County officials had inquired about other providers, but none were interested in coming to Isle of Wight County. 

And while some on the Nextdoor site were critical of Charter, others didn’t have a problem with the service. 

Robertson said that based on the calls the county has received about Charter, it appears that service has improved. The company has worked to increase customer service and there are fewer complaints about down time, but there will still be those who are unsatisfied, he said. 

Meanwhile, Isle of Wight is scheduled to complete the construction of its new public safety radio system. The new system includes towers that would allow for internet providers to install equipment and boost the availability of broadband in areas of the county that are currently underserved.  {/mprestriction}