A Bellingham-based cable company has negotiated with the county to restore cable television and broadband internet service to Orcas Island. Mt. Baker Cable, owned by Dan Adams, has restored service to much of the island and is hoping to expand in the future.
“We were asked to take care of some abandoned cables by the Deer Harbor fire department,” said Adams. “We were going to tear the old cable system down, but then I started researching, and I approached OPALCO to find out more.”
After negotiations with the county and OPALCO, which has a franchise agreement for use of the county roads right-of-way, Mt. Baker Cable obtained permission to use the existing cables instead of tearing them out. Adams says he is working on establishing Mt. Baker Cable’s own franchise agreement with the county.
Islanders in the areas with existing cable can now subscribe to 43-channel basic cable and/or high speed, broadband internet access on a month-to-month, no contract basis.
“We’re now serving everywhere that there was cable before,” Adams said. “We want to get the whole island. We’ll make sure all the cable that is there is running and then we can look at expansion into places that were never served.”
Adams said the cable serves most of Eastsound; neighborhoods along the road toward Olga and beyond; the Rosario area, Buckhorn, Raccoon Point, homes along the Orcas highway out to the golf course; Deer Harbor Road, parts of Crow Valley Road and the Orcas ferry landing area.
Most of his employees live in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties and come over during the week as needed, keeping their vehicles on Orcas.
“We try to provide stable and reliable cable tv and internet,” Adams said.
Residents have been without cable service since last August, when previous cable company Almega Cable pulled out. Some have gone to satellite service.
“Almega had a pole-top lease agreement to run their cable on OPALCO’s poles that sat on San Juan County’s right-of-way,” explained OPALCO communications specialist Suzanne Olson. “OPALCO has a franchise agreement with San Juan County on roadside right-of-ways, where it lays its [overhead and underground] distribution power lines.”
“As OPALCO goes underground with lines or makes other improvements, all pole-top lessees are invited to run their cables/lines in our open ditches during the construction projects. Almega did not respond to any of our invitations to cooperative with our projects, did not keep up their pole-top lease fees, and eventually abandoned their system on Orcas. When OPALCO was ordered by the County to remove poles from the right-of-way, it did so and Almega lost their cable in those areas… Mt. Baker Cable is in the loop with our engineering department to take advantage of any projects that might help them rebuild and/or improve their cable network.”
Mt. Baker Cable announced its plans to take over the cables last September.
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