Comcast travels M&A path in Massachusetts

Comcast is expanding its presence in the state as it inks deals to acquire two municipal service providers: BELD Broadband and Russell Municipal Cable TV.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

December 2, 2021

3 Min Read
Comcast travels M&A path in Massachusetts

Comcast is broadening its reach in Massachusetts after signing deals to acquire two municipal service providers – one for the Internet business of BELD of Braintree, and another for Russell Municipal Cable TV in Springfield.

The deals aren't massive in scale, but fit in with strategies underway as cable operators seek to stretch their footprints or expand their boundaries by acquiring small systems in adjacent markets or by edging out their existing networks to nearby cities and towns. Just this week, for example, Atlantic Broadband announced it is splashing out $82 million to encroach into new areas in New Hampshire and West Virginia that will pit it against incumbent service providers such as Comcast, Consolidated Communications and Frontier Communications.

Comcast's latest moves in Massachusetts are obviously on the M&A side of the expansion ledger.

The deal for BELD's Internet business will see about 2,500 broadband and phone subscribers transition to Comcast. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the acquisition will have no impact on BELD's electric division. BELD, an acronym for Braintree Electric Light Department, is a local, nonprofit municipal service provider.

Comcast is no stranger to the area, having served Braintree since 2003.

BELD General Manager William Bottiggi told The Patriot Ledger that the town-owned utility recently conducted a study on the investment needed in the coming years to maintain the quality of its broadband network, and determined that it would result in a significant increase in rates. The paper noted that BELD has struggled to grow its broadband business, having lost roughly 500 high-speed Internet customers since reporting a grand total of 3,000 in 2019.

"After evaluating our options, we are confident the best decision is to connect our business with Comcast's best in-class network, products, services and customer experience," Bottiggi said in a statement.

Notably, BELD Internet exited the pay-TV business in late 2019, citing rising programming costs and the emergence of various OTT-delivered pay-TV and subscription VoD options. BELD made that announcement in tandem with the introduction of a 1-Gig (downstream) service for its DOCSIS 3.1 hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network.

Figure 1: BELD knocked out its pay-TV business in late 2019, citing surging programming costs and the rise of multiple Internet-delivered video service options. (Image source: BELD Internet) BELD knocked out its pay-TV business in late 2019, citing surging programming costs and the rise of multiple Internet-delivered video service options.
(Image source: BELD Internet)

That picture will change under Comcast, which will bring forth its own pay-TV service, including its flagship X1 service, as well as Xfinity Flex, a streaming/smart home product offered for no additional cost to broadband-only customers.

Comcast will also extend access to its other products, including Xfinity Mobile (currently being offered to broadband customers), Xfinity Home and Xfinity Voice, as well as the Comcast Business product lineup.

A similar scenario will play out at Russell Municipal Cable TV, as Comcast is working to transition Russell's residential and business customers to Comcast products and services through the end of the year. Comcast has set up a web site to help facilitate the switch, along with a transition schedule.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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