The State of Cable and Broadband in Sudbury

Last update 6/30/2012

RECENT NEWS:
On 3/10/2009, the Selectmen renewed the COMCAST franchise.  This insures that the Town’s interests, and funding for public access programming, are secured through the end of 2020.  The new license and associated documents can be found on the Cable Advisor home page. 

In September 2008, the Selectmen disbanded the Sudbury Cable Committee.  Cable company compliance issues, questions from residents, and subscriber complaints, are handled by a volunteer “Cable Advisor” appointed by the Town.  To contact the Cable Advisor (Jeff Winston), please use the link at the bottom of this page.  Sudbury’s public access channel (COMCAST Channel 8 / FiOS 31) is now managed by a new non-profit corporation led by Sudbury residents.  Find out more about them at sudburytv.org.

On 2/13/07, the Selectmen awarded a CATV (cable television) franchise to Verizon. Verizon’s CATV offering is part of their fiber-to-the-home offering (they call it FiOS), which provides each home with a single very high speed communication pipe for CATV, phone, and Internet. As of 7/1/12, their build is complete, and all residents should be able to get FiOS.

Sudbury’s Public/Governmental Access Channel (COMCAST Channel 8) is available on FiOS 31. The LSRHS Education Channel (COMCAST channel 9) is available on FiOS 32.

High-speed Internet, Cable Modems, DSL, Dial-up:  Sudbury has three providers for high-speed Internet.  Verizon FiOS is available to almost all residents (call the Verizon business office at 1-800-VERIZON to see if it’s available to you), and virtually all Sudbury residents can obtain service from COMCAST (1-800-COMCAST), or Earthlink (1-800-Earthlink).  Earthlink uses COMCAST’s infrastructure (see below).  Please contact the Sudbury Cable Advisor (contact info at the end of this document) if you have trouble getting service.

Both COMCAST’s HFC (Hybrid-Fiber-Coax), and Verizon’s FTTP (Fiber-to-the-Premises) “FiOS” networks offer very-high speed (5-30Mb/s downstream) bandwidth, hundreds of times faster than dial-up.  FiOS shares a fiber across several homes, whereas COMCAST has divided Sudbury into 20 neighborhoods or “nodes” of approximately 250 homes, each served by a fiber.  In both cases, there should be plenty of bandwidth available, and most residents are quite happy with their service, even at peak times.  If you experience problems, don’t hesitate to contact your provider.

Although their prices and packages vary, COMCAST’s current pricing structure provides an Internet package that includes the lowest tier of cable service for essentially the same price as Internet access alone.  As discussed below, Internet customers should consider this package as it gives them access to Sudbury’s Access channel.

Years ago, EarthLink used COMCAST’s cable and billing infrastructures to provide an Internet-only package for about the same discounted price that COMCAST charges its cable subscribers. You can check out EarthLink’s offerings at their web site http://www.earthlink.net. Or call them at 1-800-EARTHLINK.

Verizon also offers DSL service in much of Sudbury. Though less expensive, DSL can be a bit less reliable, and typically has lower throughput rates (though they’re quite adequate for the average user). Most Sudbury residents are served from the central office near the intersection of Route 20 and Concord Road. The quality of your service may vary with your distance from this location.

Nevertheless, all cable non-subscribers should consider subscribing to COMCAST’s, or Verizon’s, lowest tier of cable service for over-the-air channels. It’s essentially free for COMCAST Internet customers, and ~$14/month for non-Internet customers. This tier provides more over-the-air channels than one can receive either from an antenna or from a satellite service. Most important, (and this is why we recommend it) this service provides access to both the LSRHS channel (COMCAST Channel 9, FiOS 32), and the Sudbury Community Access channel COMCAST Channel 8, FiOS 31). The latter televises civic meetings (including Selectmen’s and other town committee meetings, Town Meeting, LWV, Chamber of Commerce, etc.), the annual HopeSudbury Telethon, and L/S sports. In recent years, COMCAST has invested well-over $100,000 in new equipment for Sudbury Community Access, and the quality of town programming now far exceeds what was broadcast even a few years ago.  Although, much of our programming is now available on-line  (check the (“Watch us” link at http://sudburytv.org ).   Verizon also offers a similar tier of service. 

It is strongly, strongly, strongly recommended that you connect to the Internet through a router that is running firewall software.  Routers can be purchased from many places for well under $100, including Radio Shack in Sudbury.  (FiOS is provided with a router).  

Internet Telephone, VoIP:  COMCAST, Verizon, and Earthlink all offer telephone service which utilizes Voice-over-IP (VoIP).  This is a method of sending voice of data lines. Cable company phone service may be better than you can get from a third-party provider like Vonage because calls made via COMCAST or Verizon travel on their own network for most of the distance, rather than over the public internet.  VoIP is a new technology, and so there is the occasional problem, but people generally seem happy with the service.  Note that this is a totally unregulated service over which the town has no control.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Before you replace your conventional telephone service (i.e, landline) with COMCAST digital telephone, Verizon FiOS, or even your cell-phone, you should give some thought to two issues:

  1. In a power outage, battery-backup for Internet phone service lasts only several hours.  If you expect power outages that run into days, you may need an alternate method of telephone service.  Cellphones are a reasonable choice, but in a widespread outage the cell towers could lose power as well (or be flooded with calls).
  2. The reliability of non-landline 911 service varies by provider and town.  There are still well-documented, industry-wide problems with routing 911 calls through cellular or VoIP networks.  Sometimes these calls reach the police or fire department through non-emergency lines, or sometimes they don’t reach the right destination at all.  The Town recommends that you call the police department and arrange a “test” call to make sure your non-landline 911 service works properly.One solution is to keep one landline with minimal service for emergencies.  Note that when Verizon installs their FiOS service, they remove all your landlines.  On the other hand, their FiOS phone service seems to be comparable to landline service.  

Dial-up: One suggestion to those who only get rates in the 20s (Kb/s): Some people have improved their dial-up rates by purchasing a really good modem (e.g., USR 56K external). It might be worth a try, just make sure you have return privileges in case it doesn’t help. Also, find out if your ISP has upgraded their central office modems to V.92. If they have, and you upgrade as well, you may see some improvement. Many V.90 modems can be upgraded with firmware downloaded from the Internet. Check your manufacturer’s website.

Cable TV: For people on a budget, COMCAST and Verizon both offer a tier of cable service consisting of only over-the-air channels. It’s essentially free for COMCAST Internet customers, and ~$14/month by itself.  COMCAST and Verizon don’t promote this low-cost service, but they must provide it if you ask for it. 

At the time of this writing, all of FiOS service, and all but 22 channels of COMCAST service, are digital.  This means that you need some sort of cable box for useful reception.  The cable companies offer low-end “digital adapters” for a few dollars-per-month that provide this function.   If you have a recent-model TV with a digital tuner, you might still be able view the lowest (~$14/mo.) tier without a box.  Otherwise, your cable provider will tell you what you need. 

COMCAST and Verizon are required to provide cable service to all homes on all public roads, as well as to all private roads where they previously installed cable, or have access to do so. Homes on roads that are currently private and do not have access to cable should contact the general contractor for their development and request that he contact COMCAST and Verizon to have cable installed, or wait until they are accepted as a public road (COMCAST and Verizon are required to provide cable service to a newly-accepted public road in the year that the road is accepted as public). In addition, service may not yet be available to some businesses on Route 20 (Boston Post Road).  Verizon hasn’t quite completed their build, but has committed to providing service to all homes by 6/30/12. 

Other notes:  COMCAST’s method for detecting widespread cable modem service outages requires affected residents to request service calls. When your cable modem goes down, and COMCAST cannot immediately remedy the problem, they will ask you to schedule a service call, even if it’s obvious that the problem is not local to your home. Their systems track the number and locality of service call requests, and uses the data to track widespread outages. When the outage is fixed, COMCAST reps are supposed to call you to check whether your service has been restored. If you don’t receive a call, you should call to cancel.

As part of their franchise agreement, COMCAST provides a fiber-optic institutional data and video network connecting sixteen of our Town and School buildings. This network is reducing communication costs for the schools and the town while increasing bandwidth and connectivity. COMCAST also provides supplementary free Internet access to our schools and Library.

If have questions, problems with your cable service, or comments, please
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