Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, But It's Time

Cable TV service in Sturbridge has been a problem for a long time.  Interrupted service, poor picture quality, internet connections disconnecting way too frequently, and cable service that is far behind the competition.

Charter Communication does not offer what the competition offers, and what the modern consumer has come to look for.  Technology advances  every day, and woe to the company that does not latch onto it, or promotes it the wrong way.

Modern consumers not only expect to be able to stream a movie, or TV show to their TV, but to a smart phone, iPad or remote computer, too.  Our expectations have grown as fast as our technology.  The competition has kept up, and being able to stream is very convenient especially for those times trapped at the airport, or dentist's office.  Streaming has become basic.

Being able to watch a streaming movie in one room, and then moving to another room to finish the movie is something Charter has no ability to do, but the competition does.

Digital Video Recorders like the TiVo service were only introduced by Charter in the past couple of years, long after the competition introduced the service to their customers, and that is the extent of their high tech with the exception of introducing High Definition (HD).

Current cable service in Sturbridge, MA.
Being on the cutting edge is something that Charter has never been, they struggle with maintaining the service they have, and that service is not the best.  They play catch up, and as a result we are left watching Bedrock TV.

For me being good enough is not good enough.  When I pay for a service I want the best service I can afford.  So do you.  With our current cable service we have no choice, except to go without, or with  satellite, and neither choice is one I like.

Currently, Sturbridge is under contract with Charter Communications to provide our cable services, however if the service is poor, we do not have renew the contract.  We can say goodbye to Charter, and open our town up to the competition.  It's OK, we're consumers, and we don't have to accept what is offered, we can go for the best service for the best price.

However,  have had that option many times in the past, and despite the complaints from other residents, the town has listened to the promises made by Charter, and then smiles at the dollars offered to the town for media services, and calls it a wrap.
A happy Sturbridge family watching modern cable TV.

It's time to get real.  

Loose a poor service, and bring a modern, current cable service to Sturbridge.  Charter has had many chances to improve, and they haven't.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  Sturbridge is long overdue in regaining it's sanity.

Well, at least in this regard, we can work on the other things later.


  1. Wally, good post and one I truly appreciate, but I would be remiss were I not to provide a bit more information. The reason and truly the sole reason we do not have a competitor for Charter is the cost of infrastructure.

    During our contract talks with Charter Communications a little over 18 months ago, myself and others aggressively contacted Verizon, ComCast and others to gauge interest in providing service to Sturbridge. All said the same thing; the challenge for them was the amount of infrastructure (cables, transmitters, etc.) required and the cost associated with same in order to provide service. They shared their opinion that there was not enough customer density in Sturbridge to justify the cost at that time.

    All of the current cable infrastructure is owned by Charter Communications as they were the ones who invested and installed the "network". Thus, as it is technically private property, no other providers are able to piggy-back on their "network". Certainly we would all relish the thought of some good strong cable-service competition, but until Verizon or some other entity is willing to invest the capital costs of installing their own "network", we are in a position wherein our options are severely limited.

    This was the core reason we successfully pushed for a 5-year contract as opposed to the standard 10-year contract previously and regularly awarded by the Town, as we were hopeful that at some point other providers might reconsider the option to invest in Sturbridge.

    I do know that Verizon Fios indicated several times back during those discussions that they felt there were about 3-5 years out from making the infrastructure investment, as at that time, they were primarily focused on communities with "higher and denser population footprints".

    I am hopeful that this will provide some useful information.

  2. I believe that the "Money Charter gives to the Town" is a misnomer, I believe that it is a "loan they give to the Town", we pay it back via our Charter bill each month.

  3. Thank you, Tom for the update. I have lived in towns that have had different cable companies for contract changes, and bankruptcies, and the equipment was never an issue. If Charter was "fired" they would not go from home to home rolling up their wire. They are on the edge of bankruptcy most of the time, and that is one expense they would forgo, but would probably work out something with the town. Cash is cash. If FIOS wants a few years before they decide, then offer up the town to Comcast. If Charter leaves the equipment in place, all the better.

    Yesterday all of my specialty HD Charter channels were off the air in the middle of the day with the message "This channel is the off temporally off the air. Please check back later"

    Off the air? Really? What other cable company does this? Off the air is reminiscent of 1965 broadcast TV, or a cable company finding it hard to pay for its channels.

    Tom, again, thanks for the information, but I feel we (the town) needs to start playing hard ball with Charter, and put Comcast on the speed dial.

  4. Thomas R. CreamerFriday, October 21, 2011

    Wally, I don't disagree with you at all, but we can't force ComCast or Verizon to invest in the cable that runs throughout town. Charter would surely not lease it to a competitor - we've asked - and both ComCast and Verizon have already indicated to us that they do not have interest in investing in infrastructure right now. That said, our community is always open to options and will continue to try and leverage competitors in all areas. Thanks again for raising the issue.

  5. I agree if you have a cable box you never know if your TV will get reception or not. Charter service is horrendous.

  6. Tom, thanks again for the information. It is frustrating, and we are in a quite a pickle. I don't envy those on the Cable Committee.

  7. I suspect that we'll never see fiber in our town. Fiber is too expensive to string for the number of users that our town can provide. What I do expect to see in the very near future is 4G video receivers that will be everything FiOS can presently do, but do it wirelessly. I don't know if for instance a box in the basement will feed the entire house and provide phone, TV and broadband services, or if there will be a DVR box with a a small antenna attached to it for each television.

    Until that time comes, I get my television service from "up there", 22,000 miles away. I jettisoned Charter and their dismal service years ago, and have been enjoying reliable, dependable service from both DirecTV and Dish. Both services provide HD broadcasting with less digital compression than what Charter feeds us. The result is a higher definition picture. ....and don't believe the Charter advertisements that talk of signal outtages during rain, a phenomonon called "rain fade". Yes, a heavy rain storm will cause a blackout of several minutes until it passes. Compare that to the hours long outtages when a car takes down a utility pole, or a tree limb pulls down a section of cable.

    Folks, Charter isn't your only choice here in town. Express your displeasure by cutting them loose!

  8. This may sound shallow...but I won't even consider a satellite dish because I live in a historic old colonial and to put an ugly dish on the side of my house seems like a crime against history and aesthetics. So for me, sadly, Charter is the only option. :(

  9. You are not being shallow at all You have a valid concern. It is one of those things we all have to weigh: reception / service / cost vs. aesthetics. Good luck! If ther was a proper way to get decent, and affordable internet coverage with satelite I would have installed a dish long ago.


Anonymous comments not accepted, and will be rejected. Please use your full name. Choose "Name / URL" and enter your name, and your name ONLY. Leave "URL" blank.