Bernardston, Northfield residents request improved customer service, increased coverage from Comcast

  • Northfield Selectboard candidates Mary Bowen, Bernard Boudreau and Alex Meisner during a candidates’ forum in April at the Centennial House Bed and Breakfast that was filmed by Bernardston-Northfield Community Television (BNCTV). A public hearing last week regarding renewal of the Comcast television license for Bernardston and Northfield saw town officials and residents emphasize BNCTV’s importance.

Staff Writer
Published: 5/16/2021 4:00:45 PM

A joint public hearing last week regarding the renewal of the Comcast television license for Bernardston and Northfield saw town officials and residents speak largely of the importance of Bernardston-Northfield Community Television (BNCTV), and of the desire for improved customer service and increased coverage by the telecommunications company.

The meeting, which was attended remotely by roughly 30 participants, was held as part of the process for coming to a contract agreement with Comcast. Residents and officials from both towns were represented, as was attorney William Solomon, who is working with the town on the cable license renewal.

“I didn’t realize that for many, … particularly during the year of COVID, (BNCTV) is the only way people are seeing what’s going on in town government,” said Northfield Selectboard member Barbara “Bee” Jacque.

Bernardston Town Coordinator Louis Bordeaux echoed Jacque.

“BNCTV has been absolutely fabulous as far as covering our Selectboard meetings,” he said, adding that the two-part Town Meeting earlier this month was also recorded and streamed by BNCTV. “Without BNCTV’s participation in that, I can’t tell you how many residents would be in the dark … as far as what’s going on in town.”

Frank Froment, chair of the Northfield Council on Aging, also spoke to the service BNCTV has provided the two towns. In fact, he said he saw it as a potential tool for disseminating information among the towns’ seniors.

Still, Froment and others at the hearing had concerns for the “lack of customer service” provided by the telecommunications conglomerate, particularly in the wake of the closure of the service center at 21 Mohawk Trail in Greenfield.

Brian Brault, former chair of the Northfield Electronic Communications and Cable Committee, said although he “had the pleasure of working with Comcast on the recent state-funded broadcast expansion project in Greenfield,” he was disappointed in the lack of customer service he experienced last summer when his family was dealing with connectivity issues with their DVR — a device used to record television shows for later viewing.

“We discovered we could no longer bring the unit into our service center, because the service center was, in fact, closed,” he said.

Over several weeks, he had trouble setting up an appointment at another location — Holyoke, he said, was the closest still open — and experienced “poor communication” with the company.

“I would urge Comcast to address this awful situation immediately,” Brault said. “Having to travel to Holyoke is not reasonable by any factor on this planet.”

BNCTV Operations Manager Otis Wheeler, who also attested to a “good working relationship with Comcast,” said he is hopeful the contract allows for the expansion of access to areas of both Bernardston and Northfield.

Several residents living in areas not serviced by Comcast asked town officials to consider their neighborhoods for potential buildout as part of the contract renewal.

“Not having cable access for my family has prevented us from receiving local and national news, which has been particularly concerning with the pandemic,” said Northfield resident Nancy Billings.

The pandemic has changed the way cable access television is used, Wheeler said, namely in the demand for increased coverage of sports and athletics games, on top of coverage of municipal meetings that previously weren’t recorded.

“These are services we want to continue to offer,” he said, noting this ultimately meant a need for more technology. He believes the town may want to continue offering a remote option for attending meetings.

Both Bernardston and Northfield will continue to accept written comments. Northfield Town Administrator Andrea Llamas noted it is possible for future hearings to be held, if public comment warrants it.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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