Calvert County Government is in the final stages of the process to develop a new franchise agreement with Comcast. The agreement covers the provision of cable television service in Calvert County. By law, cable franchise agreements only address cable television services, not internet service.
The Board of County Commissioners held a public hearing Nov. 27 to consider and receive comments on the proposed agreement that was developed over a 12-month negotiation process. The new agreement covers a 10-year term.
The cable franchise agreement allows cable television providers to build and operate cable systems in county rights-of-way in exchange for providing cable service to residents. The agreement details which areas will be provided service and covers other services such as public access channels, funding to support local programming, studios and equipment, and more.
Comcast has a non-exclusive franchise in Calvert County. While any cable provider can petition the county to provide service, Comcast is currently the only provider to enter the Calvert County market.
While the franchise agreement cannot, by law, address internet service, cable TV providers commonly include internet in their set of services. Calvert County worked to get the best possible coverage in the agreement to address areas currently without internet service.
The agreement maintains a requirement that service be extended to any area that has at least 15 homes per mile. This density requirement is the lowest density approved in Maryland.
County staff worked with Comcast to identify unserved areas that do not meet density requirements. Four unserved areas have been identified as eligible for build by Comcast.
The County will continue to work with Comcast to find opportunities to make expansion into unserved areas more affordable.
While internet service is not covered in the franchise agreement, the County will also pursue options and technologies to address internet coverage in unserved areas. While exact figures are difficult to ascertain, the percentage of county residents who do not have access to cable is between 5 and 10 percent.
Federal law holds that cable rate setting is deregulated. Local franchise agreements cannot set rate parameters.
Every 36 months the county can perform a full compliance audit to ensure the terms of the agreement are being met. The county may inspect the cable system and can require immediate remedy if a danger or threat to safety is found. There are triggers throughout the agreement that would prompt reporting requirements from Comcast.