Massachusetts town needs to come up with $720K to get Charter to build network

Charter's updated logo
Charter would own the network and collect all subscriber fees. (Charter Communications)

Showcasing economics that look a little like stadium deals for pro sports teams, the Massachusetts city of New Marlborough will have to come up with $720,000 if it wants Charter Communications to build a broadband network serving its citizens—a network Charter will then own and monetize going forward. 

As reported by local paper The Berkshire Eagle, under a proposal issued last week by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, which uses state money to kickstart broadband projects in Massachusetts, Charter would be paid $3.1 million to build a network serving 96% of New Marlborough residents. 

Charter would then own the network and collect all subscriber fees. 

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However, unlike many broadband projects the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) funds in the state, New Marlborough is being ased to come up with some of the funds—$720,000.

MBI has proposed setting up a 10-year, easy-term loan from the state. 

“Our intention is to be the best creditor you've ever seen,” MBI chairman Peter Larkin told a New Marlborough committee overseeing the broadband project. "We're trying to get it done. We're trying to be helpful."

New Marlborough is a spread-out town of around 1,500 people. City leaders are reportedly mulling their options.

According to The Berkshire Eagle, other bidders for the broadband project include Matrix Communications, Fiber Connect, Wired West and Crocker Communications.

However, in its quest to provide broadband services to a range of small communities in central and Western Massachusetts, MBI has acknowledged a preference for Comcast, Charter and other cable companies.

This has not sat well with everybody.

"Call me a whistleblower, concerned citizen, activist for fairness, justice and democracy, but for Massachusetts Broadband Institute to show such blatant preferential treatment [to Charter] when there are qualified, experienced local options feels like corruption, and it needs some serious daylight," New Marlborough resident Dave Travis wrote last week on a town email list.

Charter reps didn’t immediately respond to Fierce’s inquiry for comment.