You can check out any time you’d like, but you can never… well, you know the song.

Aurich Lawson

Customers of a small cable company in Vermont are protesting the company’s pending sale to Comcast.

The sale of Southern Vermont Cable Co. (SVCC), which has about 2,450 subscribers and operates 123 miles of cable, is being reviewed by the Vermont Public Utility Commission. The commission has received 25 public comments, all of them either opposing the sale or expressing concerns that it will be bad for customers without appropriate consumer-protection measures.

Southern Vermont Cable owner and president Ernest Scialabba founded SVCC in 1988. He is selling the company and plans to retire after spending more than 40 years in the cable industry. Comcast already provides service in neighboring areas.

“I am confident that an organization like Comcast will provide SVCC’s subscribers with quality customer service and will continue to invest in SVCC’S systems,” Scialabba told the commission in testimony. He noted that “continued capital investment” is necessary and said that the sale “to Comcast will increase the technical, operational, and financial resources available to support the system.”

What customers are saying

While a sale of the company appears to be inevitable, customers who filed comments would prefer a buyer other than Comcast. Here’s a sampling of comments from nine Vermonters:

  • I have only praise for the good folks at SVCable, and nothing but contempt for Comcast. As a computer repair professional for 20 years, I’ve had many dealings with Comcast/Xfinity, nearly all of it bad. I’d rather have no Internet service than give one penny to Comcast.
  • SVCC provides exemplary service! They make quick repairs and deliver a great product for an affordable price. They truly care for and appreciate their customers. I’ve had Comcast in the past and it is not affordable, their call center is not local, they are not friendly and their company focus is making money. It’s a monopoly. Comcast is not for Vermont. If Comcast takes over SVCC we can all say goodbye to the personal, hardworking people, company and service we’ve all become accustomed to!
  • Comcast’s well-known poor customer service is not welcome in our area. Comcast has not demonstrated that they are able to deal with the many weather-related outages common here. It is clear that a company the size of Comcast will not be responsive to our service needs here Putney. A short search on the Internet shows how poor Comcast’s business practices and customer service are. Also, what will happen to our cost of service? Comcast and Xfinity are FAMOUS for jacking up prices!
  • As a long-time Southern Vermont Cable customer, I love the quality of the service I receive. I can stream anything I like, the Internet speed is excellent and the price is affordable. I am shocked at the possibility that the company could sell itself to Comcast, famous throughout the United States for its high prices and lousy service. Comcast is a mega-company with no regard for customer service. Fighting with them can become a full-time business. Please don’t allow this sale.
  • Our experience with Comcast has been negative and we would promptly seek alternative service if they assumed service for SVC.
  • What concerns me about this proposed merger is there has been nothing presented to customers about what type of service and costs will be offered by Comcast.
  • We are customers of SVCC and wish to express our total opposition to Comcast purchasing this company. Telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast already enjoy monopolies over the on-ramp to the Internet. They’ve hoovered up countless media companies and positioned themselves to dominate the media flowing over those connections. Keep our regional companies independent and strong!
  • If this goes through, we will have segued in a single step from a family-run local operation where the president of the firm (or his brother) often came by for service calls, to a gigantic international corporation who will pay us as much heed and respect as a bug caught under a shoe.
  • As a resident of Dummerston and a Southern Vermont Cable subscriber, I am opposed to the sale of SVC to Comcast. There is no competition for Comcast and they appear to be predatory and unaffordable to most people. Vermonters in this area need another option besides Comcast for cable, Internet and phone options.

“Safest option”

SVCC provides service in Putney, Dummerston, Newfane, Williamsville, Townshend, Jamaica, and Rawsonville. SVCC has four employees, according to a VTDigger article yesterday.

Scialabba told VTDigger that selling to Comcast is “the safest option.”

“A fair number of small start-ups are looking to buy, but a lot of them want to get in and out and make a quick buck,” he said. “The technology is changing so fast and everything is so much more expensive. In another 10 years, a lot of companies will be going away. Comcast is the safest option because it isn’t going anywhere.”

SVCC and Comcast urged the commission to approve the change in a joint petition. Comcast regional VP of government affairs Daniel Glanville told the commission that “Comcast will provide increased reliability and network capacity” to current SVCC customers. He continued:

Comcast plans to integrate the SVCC system into Comcast’s fiber backbone to provide redundancy and reliability. Comcast’s fiber network is closely monitored and maintained by area, regional, and divisional personnel. Fiber restoration, plant maintenance, and headend operations will be supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. By integrating the SVCC system into Comcast’s route-diverse and redundant fiber network, SVCC subscribers will enjoy a more reliable network with greater capacity.

A state lawmaker is urging the state commission to impose conditions on the sale. VTDigger wrote:

The Public Utility Commission is expected to rule on the proposed sale by spring. State Rep. Michael Mrowicki of Putney has asked that approval be tied to a “high standard of service” with defined benchmarks and continued expansion into areas without coverage.

“The reality that Ernie is getting out of the business,” Mrowicki says, “and there aren’t other options.”



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