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Comcast doing ‘walkout’ for cable possibility

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By Damon Lawrence

Some Merriwater Home Park residents are unhappy about the lack of cable TV in their subdivision, and they want Comcast to do something about it.

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Arthur S. Copcutt said his subdivision off Lawnville Road east of Kingston meets requirements to have service extended to the area.

“I’ve gotten a copy of the franchise agreement that says if there’s at least 25 residents within a one-mile area from the last connection, they’re supposed to be able to get it,” Copcutt said.

Russell E. Byrd, a senior director of government and public affairs for Comcast, attended the Roane County Commission’s Cable TV Committee meeting last month to discuss the Merriwater issue.

“This is not a Christmas-tree-light type of operation that we run,” Byrd said. “When you’re building a broadband network, there’s certain points of connectivity that you have to attach to, and at some points in time, that’s not the closest piece of cable to your house.”

Byrd said Comcast would perform a “walkout” of Merriwater, which would allow the company to make certain determinations about the area.

“We’ll be able to estimate what the cost of the electronics is, the cost of the cable and the fiber and all of that is,” he said, “and then we can make the determination at that point in time whether the number of homes in that area meets the density requirement that is in one of the franchises that we have.”

Roane County has a franchise agreement with Comcast, but that doesn’t allow the county to make mandates on the company, according to officials.

“We’d like for everyone in Roane County to have access to cable and high-speed Internet, but the franchise laws and agreements have been watered down so much over the years that the county has no teeth in forcing cable companies to provide service,” Roane County Executive Ron Woody said.

“We can’t shut them down.”

Byrd said Comcast wants to serve all customers, but there are things the company must consider in low-density areas.

“If you’re looking at what the costs are, there’s a lot more involved in it than us just bringing cable to your house,” he said.

“First and foremost we’ve got to walk it out. We’ve got to design it. We’ve got to send it to your power company. They have to take a look at each and every pole and make sure that there’s room on that pole for us to make an attachment.”

Byrd said he would email the results of the Merriwater “walkout” to Woody and Cable TV Committee Chairman Ron Berry.

As of last Wednesday, Woody and Berry said they hadn’t received anything about the “walkout.”

“I figured it would be after the holidays,” Berry said.