Massachusetts official backs Comcast cable over fiber for rural expansion project

The commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications Cable is throwing her support to Comcast cable over another fiber-based proposal in a battle to win state grants for rural broadband expansion.

According to Masslive, Commissioner Karen Charles Peterson is recommending Comcast's proposal to extend its copper cable network into the Massachusetts towns of Hardwick and Montague. A competing fiber optic cable proposal by the Matrix Design Group was passed over by Peterson, who said it's too costly to go that route with taxpayers' money.

According to the report, Matrix's competing bid in the other two towns promised faster speeds and more customers served. But Peterson called the Matrix plan shaky and pointed out that Matrix is counting on another fiber buildout in an adjacent town in order to make the whole ordeal profitable.

Local officials, however, were not impressed with Peterson's logic, calling it "bad governance" and questioning why the state would want to give a giant company like Comcast "corporate welfare."

The $5 million in state grant money at stake is earmarked to expand internet access in 10 rural Massachusetts towns, some of which already have limited Comcast service available. Comcast was the sole bidder for the grant in seven of the towns and plans to expand service in an eighth town with no need for additional state incentives, according to Masslive.

Though initial Comcast speeds will be slower than what a fiber optic network could provide, Comcast promised to eventually deliver 1 gigabit service to the towns covered by the grant.

Comcast's talk of gigabit speeds in rural deployments comes as the operator is just beginning to take steps in deploying DOCSIS 3.1 technology, which can deliver multi-gigabit speeds over existing hybrid fiber coaxial (HFC) networks.

Earlier this month, Comcast began the second leg of its DOCSIS 3.1 deployment in Nashville after already getting a similar service deployment underway in Atlanta. Comcast plans to offer gigabit service in Chicago, Detroit and Miami in the second half of the year.

For more:
- read this Masslive story

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