Cutting the cord

Comcast has announced that they will be discontinuing service for residents of Gustine and Santa Nella.

GUSTINE - Faced with an antiquated system and dwindling customer base, Comcast has confirmed that it will be discontinuing cable television service to Gustine and Santa Nella.

Comcast spokesperson Bryan Byrd said the company has filed the necessary paperwork with the Public Utilities Commission and plans to discontinue local service no later than the end of this year.

The move will affect 195 Comcast customers in Gustine and 19 in Santa Nella, Byrd told Mattos Newspapers.

City Manager Sean Scully said Comcast representatives advised local officials in mid-August of plans to pull out of Gustine.

“Obviously, it is very disappointing to lose a service. They run a business just like everyone else runs a business, and it is their right to make that decision,” Scully commented. “From a community standpoint, we want our citizens to have more choice. That part is disappointing. Our options are being restricted a little more.”

Byrd said the system serving Gustine and Santa Nella was once operated by Televents of San Joaquin. Smaller companies such as Televents were commonplace in the early days of the cable television industry, Byrd said, but have gone by the wayside in an era of growth and consolidation.

The system was operated for a time by AT&T before being acquired by Comcast in 2002, he stated.

“As there has been consolidation in the industry, the systems get transferred,” Byrd commented. “You inherit (a facility) that is sub-standard for the industry.”

The outdated, analog system serving Gustine offers cable television service only, he added, and only limited package offerings at that.

“It does not offer internet, phone, or home security. All of those advanced products are offered almost anywhere else in California,” Byrd pointed out. “The customers are savvy and understand that is is a lower product offering. Almost everyone has moved to a different provider and gets services from Dish Network or Direct TV. There are other options, and people have moved to them.”

Older systems such as those serving Gustine and Santa Nella cannot be updated to provide more advanced offerings. Simply keeping the systems operational is challenging, Byrd said, because they are at the end of their useful life and replacement parts are difficult if not impossible to locate.

Byrd said customers will receive a series of notifications advising them of the discontinuance of service in Gustine and Santa Nella.

The decision will have at least a nominal impact on the city’s budget.

Finance Manager Jami Westervelt said the current-year budget anticipated $8,000 in franchise fees from Comcast. That amount, based on a percentage of Comcast revenues, has been falling in recent years, she said.

Comcast also generated $3,500 in utility user fee proceeds last year, she told Mattos Newspapers.

Services such as Dish Network or Direct TV do not pay those fees, Scully said.

“It is not going to break our budget,” he said of the lost income, “but with as tight a budget as we have, any decline in revenue is going to hurt.”