One thing is clear: if the City of Northampton builds a community network, subscribers should save boatloads of money. Comcast’s effective monopoly on Internet services in Northampton is very profitable for them.
Figuring out exactly what you pay for Internet service from Comcast is complex by design. When you sign up for service, you can bundle Cable TV and phone, the usual “Double Play” and “Triple Play” offers that give the appearance of saving you money by “discounting” Internet, Cable TV or phone services. One thing is clear: initial discounts disappear after one year. Unless you can negotiate a discount by bargaining with Comcast, you will be paying their standard rates after the first year.
Based on this PDF document, you can see Comcast’s current internet pricing after discounts. We compared their rates (where we could) with two local community networks (Whip City Fiber in Westfield and LeverettNet in Leverett) and one nationally renown community network in Chattanooga, Tennessee, managed for the city by a company called EPB.
|Comcast Plan Name||Maximum download speed||Comcast Monthly Rate (after initial discounts)||Westfield MA (Whip City Fiber) Monthly Rate||Leverett MA (Otelco) Monthly Rate||Greenfield MA (GCET) Monthly Rate||Chattanooga TN (EPB) Monthly Rate||Ammon ID Monthly Rate|
How much can you save? Even with this table, it is hard to say. The service rates for a future community network in Northampton are unknown since there is no decision yet to create one. However, we can get a sense of the costs by what similar community networks are charging. Bear in mind that these prices do not include any state and local taxes, or equipment rentals. Many community networks provide the equipment for free.
Assuming that neither Comcast’s nor the community network’s prices change over time (a dubious assumption with Comcast) you could save $270 a year compared with Comcast’s 100mbps plan and Chattanooga’s pricing were used for a similar plan here in Northampton. Over ten years, that would be savings of $2700. If you had 1 gigabit per second service to the home, you could save roughly $420/year with a community network, or $4200 over ten years!
Some things to notice:
- Community networks tend to offer higher speeds by default. 1 gigabit per second fiber to the home is becoming standard.
- Community networks offer dramatically lower costs for consumers, typically amounting to at least 1/3 less than companies like Comcast charge. This is because these networks are typically run as nonprofit entities, and are overseen by the local city or town.
One thing you may not notice: Comcast plans typically offer service “up to” a given limit. Your actual speed may be substantially lower, particularly in high-traffic hours. This explains why you may get pauses or degraded video quality with Internet streaming services in the evening. Community networks usually do a much better job of providing the claimed bandwidth because they are architected better and must be responsive to local community needs.
Unquestionably though, a Northampton Community Network will save you a lot of money, and the savings will grow every month you are on the network. So come and join us! Give us your email address (see the sidebar) and we will send you updates. Meanwhile, please pass this on!
Note: post updated on September 19, 2018 and October 19, 2018.