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Another year of Comcast ahead for Arlington residents

Comcast logo (courtesy Comcast)

Arlington County is extending its agreement with Comcast for a year.

Comcast has held the county’s main cable franchise since 1998, when it was awarded to a cable operator it later acquired. The Philadelphia-based media and telecom conglomerate last had its local franchise agreement renewed for a standard five-year term in 2016.

The franchise agreement is what allows Comcast to serve customers in Arlington, to the exclusion of other traditional cable providers. Verizon’s FiOS fiber optic TV and internet service has its own franchise agreement in Arlington. Such agreements are made at the state or locality level and mandated by Congress.

The government-granted monopoly lets cable operators make the significant investment required to string cable and connect homes while local governments get fees and/or other benefits in return. Without such agreements and regulation, utility poles might be full of competing cable infrastructure and companies might opt to only serve the more profitable parts of town.

The Arlington County Board voted over the weekend to extend the agreement for a year while it continues to negotiate with Comcast, a process that was disrupted by the pandemic, according to a staff report. It also took three years of extensions before the last long-term agreement was signed.

The current agreement will now run through next December. Comcast has indicated that it wants to renew the long-term agreement and keep serving Arlington.

More from the staff report:

The County Board has issued Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity to three entities for the provision of cable television service: Comcast, Verizon, and RCN Corporation. The Comcast franchise was previously extended by one year and now expires on December 9, 2022. To continue the Comcast renewal process, the County must extend the existing Certificate.


By letter dated March 6, 2019, Comcast sent to the County a notice of its desire to renew the Certificate, as provided for by 47 U.S.C. § 546. The COVID pandemic significantly impacted the County’s ability to commence good-faith face-to-face negotiations. Accordingly, the proposed Resolution extends the period available for negotiation beyond the expected duration of the pandemic from December 9, 2022 to December 9, 2023.

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