The advantage of multiple providers is clear to Danvers Assistant Town Manager Diane Norris. Her town has had FiOS for some time.
“Years ago, we had complaints all the time about cable television,” she said. But now that FiOS competes with Comcast, those concerns have faded.
It isn’t all about money either, Norris said. Not only does FiOS offer a different price structure, it offers entertainment packages that vary from what Comcast sells. The need to sign onto packages that give customers television channels they don’t want in order to get the ones they do has long frustrated cable subscribers.
Which is not to say that money doesn’t matter. With its complex billing made still more opaque when cable television, Internet and phone service are bundled together, cable companies have had users watching like hawks for mysterious price increases. For example, Burnett points out, some months ago, Comcast offered at no charge small electronic devices designed to allow limited cable reception on secondary televisions.
More recently, he continued, users may have found $1.99 per box added to their bills.
Less than a decade ago, the complaint about cable television was that viewers were forced to take whatever was given to them. Over time, however, alternatives have grown. Satellite television, DirectTV and Dish Network are available. More recently, users have found they can bypass their cable provider via the Internet, giving access to an array of movies and television programs.
The possibility of new technology making cable television less attractive might be one reason for the reluctance to invest in communities like Peabody.
“In some cities, they’re doing away with cable,” said Yu Hu, an assistant professor of marketing at Salem State University. New York City and San Francisco are two places where secondary providers are challenging companies like Time Warner.