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Manteca’s high speed service gap

Council wants to know what areas Comcast doesn’t serve

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Manteca’s high speed service gap

Comcast wants to close their Manteca office.

Photo contributed/

POSTED November 20, 2013 1:15 a.m.

City attorney John Brinton — answering a query from Mayor Willie Weatherford — told the council that his office off of West Yosemite Avenue and other nearby concerns such as Kaiser Hospital rely on dial up Internet service.

Councilman Vince Hernandez was stunned.

“You have dial up!?” Hernandez blurted out.

Brinton said that when he looked into getting high speed service he was told it would cost businesses around Kaiser Hospital $20,000 to $30,000 to have it extended plus monthly service charges.

The exchange during Tuesday’s council meeting was triggered by a discussion over a request from Comcast to close their Manteca office that they agreed in their franchise agreement with the city to maintain through 2015. It prompted the council to direct staff to find out what areas within Manteca’s city limits aren’t served by Comcast cable and report back by the Dec. 17 council meeting.

What the council will do with the information once they get it wasn’t clear. Weatherford, though, was of the opinion the council should do their best to leverage the most for Manteca in exchange for granting Comcast permission to close their office in the 100 block of North Grant. That could include trying to get additional areas in Manteca covered with Comcast service.

The mayor contended vast swaths of downtown did not have access to high speed Internet as well as other pockets in Manteca. Weatherford ventured to say that if it were available that every business in the city’s heart would subscribe to high speed Internet.

Comcast has already notified its landlord and posted signs that they are closing the Manteca office next month.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin, answering an inquiry from Weatherford, said if the city doesn’t agree to the closure at their next meeting the franchise agreement still requires Comcast to maintain  an office in the city.

“It doesn’t have to be at that location,” McLaughlin said.

The non-exclusive franchise agreement with Continental Cablevision that is now Comcast was renewed in 1994 for 20 years until June 19, 2015.

The agreement requires Comcast to maintain a customer service and bill payment location in Manteca that is open during normal business hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday excluding holidays. It also required that office to be open two hours weekly outside of normal business hours. It further stated the office had to be adequately staffed to accept subscriber payments and respond to service requests and complaints.

Comcast told McLaughlin that now only a small trickle of people pay their bills in person at the Manteca office with most opting to do it online, via the mail or through electronic transfers using the phone. They also no longer distribute and collect equipment at the location. Comcast’s business model has those services now being provided by retailers such as Best Buy that sell high speed Internet service on behalf of the firm.

Comcast met with city staff to discuss what type of improvements the city might need that could be added to the franchise agreement in exchange for closure of the office.

Municipal staff recommended the council ask Comcast to provide city hall with high-speed data service at no cost as well as between the Civic Center and the Union Road fire station and the wastewater treatment plant.  That would be in exchange for them being able to get out of a requirement to pay rent or lease monthly space and staff it or else contract with another business to handle in person bill payments.

McLaughlin told the council Tuesday that it was the first time that she had been made aware that Comcast didn’t provide service throughout the city.

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