The Independent has published articles about the problem of internet connectivity on the Outer Cape, and we are currently waiting to see the results of the latest round of negotiations with Comcast about its policies. I believe that a wired broadband connection should be considered a basic necessity and should be available to every home in our region.
A number of homes in Wellfleet, where I live, have no Comcast cable connection available. That is also true in Truro. They have been left out of company plans because of their remoteness; Comcast deems them not profitable.
I think most of the roads left out in Wellfleet are in or near the National Seashore. Comcast has gone around them, down other National Seashore roads with more dense and profitable development near the beaches. Connecting to OpenCape’s fiber optic alternative network is prohibitively expensive. Satellite and cell coverage are not equal in data strength, amount, or capacity for internet service compared to Comcast cable.
Where we are, near the Truro line, the cell phone signal is also poor. Why do we allow complete dead zones in our towns?
Comcast has reportedly offered to reduce its threshold for service from 25 to 15 houses per linear mile. In Wellfleet, at least, this will not fix the problem. I believe it would leave out an estimated 5 to 15 percent of all homes in Wellfleet. I have been unsuccessful in getting data or maps of Wellfleet’s coverage from Comcast or the town administration.
A serious commitment to close this gap in service is needed. Our town governments should demand accurate mapping of Comcast service coverage and, more important, lack of coverage. Putting ink on a contract with Comcast requiring service for every household would allow students and all residents to access what has become a basic utility.
This is an issue of educational, economic, and health equity. The coronavirus pandemic has made remote communication incalculably more important. After 10 years of fact-finding and advocacy, ever since the last contract negotiation with Comcast, I feel frustrated and forgotten.
It has been difficult for my family to keep up and on track. Common amenities like nonmetered wi-fi, streaming, updating, Zoom, Netflix, online courses, live calls, and gaming from home, which most people take for granted, are not available to us. The amount of time and money I have spent on workarounds is much too much. Being separated from aging and ill parents during the virus outbreak has made it even more difficult. Add the lack of ability to do common remote work and school functions from home, and you can imagine how I feel.
I hope this situation will be fixed within the next 10 years, or before the next public health crisis. It will never happen if we don’t make the effort.