Local Government and Politics, News

Peabody sets up dedicated telephone line at City Hall for residents to get answers

PEABODY — Residents who have questions about RCN coming to the city later this year can call a dedicated telephone line at City Hall to get answers.

Last month, Mayor Edward Bettencourt Jr. granted a license to RCN to offer its cable TV and high-speed Internet services in Peabody.  The deal was hailed by the mayor as the end of a 40-year monopoly of cable TV service by Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. It begins a new era of competition which promises to benefit residents and businesses, he said.

But since then, the mayor’s office has been flooded with calls from residents about when the service will come to their neighborhood.

Callers to 978-538-5910 are asked to leave a message with their question. Daniel Doucette, the city’s purchasing agent, will respond promptly, the mayor said. 

“Dan’s expertise includes the original cable license process in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” Bettencourt said.  

For residents who prefer to email their questions, they can reach the city at RCNinquiry@peabody-ma.gov.

RCN, a New Jersey-based cable provider serves major metropolitan regions around the country including Boston, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.  Peabody is the 20th Massachusetts community to add RCN.

“There is a lot of excitement about RCN coming here to compete head to head with Comcast,” Bettencourt said in a statement.  

Under the terms of the agreement, RCN, like Comcast, will pay the city 5 percent of its gross revenues. Most of it goes into a technology fund to help pay for Peabody Access Telecommunications, the city’s cable access TV station. 

Peabody expects to receive $1.1 million this year from Comcast, which had 17,461 customers last year, according to the Department of Telecommunication & Cable. Access TV gets $1 million and the city gets the rest.

In a separate agreement, Peabody Municipal Light Plant (PMLP), the community-owned nonprofit utility company, will collect $44,000 annually from RCN to attach its cable lines to about 7,000 utility poles in the city, according to a copy of the deal obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. 

“We have been working with RCN over the last few months to ensure their fiber optic cable attachments would not interfere with other services on the poles,” said PLMP’s manager Charles Orphanos, in a statement. 

Over the next months, Peabody residents can expect to see utility employees working on poles to make room for the new cables. Some cables will be moved up or down on existing poles. In other cases, existing poles may need to be replaced to accommodate a safe distance between the different utilities on the poles. Most poles carry lines for cable TV, telephone, fire alarm and electricity.

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