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Pitcairn's cable, Internet services' last day is July 31

| Tuesday, July 19, 2016, 5:24 p.m.

Pitcairn officials are counting down the last days of borough-owned cable that has served the community for decades.

Council has set a firm deadline of July 31 as the last day of service for the borough's cable and Internet services.

“It's a sad day, but time marches on and the world progresses,” said council Vice President John Prucnal, who also heads the cable committee.

Prucnal points to advances in technology and costs of maintenance as the culprits for ceasing operations. He said the speed of the borough's Internet was “snail-like” compared to what companies could provide at “light-speed.”

“We just couldn't keep up,” he said, referring to major cable and Internet providers who specialize in the business.

If the borough would have attempted to upgrade equipment for its approximately 400 customers, it would have cost a “substantial amount of money,” which is “not a wise move” for council, Prucnal said.

Customers who have received service from the borough are encouraged to seek providers such as Verizon, Dish Network and DirecTV, or to purchase an antenna that will pick up between 30 and 40 viewing channels.

“(Council was) hoping Comcast or Verizon might come in and say, ‘Here's a special offer,' to our customers, but (neither company) has come forward,” said Prucnal.

James Comunale, utility supervisor for the borough's public works department, said although it is difficult to quantify in dollars the amount the borough will save by ridding itself of the responsibility of providing the service, he and other employees will be able to focus their time on other tasks around the community.

The borough was forced to raise fees just to break even with the cost to run an outdated system that didn't offer additional channels with the increase in price. The borough had received a loan to upgrade its system in 2007 and didn't pay it off until seven years later, he said.

“Our cable system was never really profitable,” Comunale said.

Mayor Betsy Stevick said the history of the borough-owned cable system goes back to before 1950. Broadcast television reception for stations out in Pittsburgh was poor, so antennae were built to amplify television signals the cable system carried at that time.

“It's time (to move on) — it served the borough well. We were spoiled,” Stevick said.

Council still is searching for a buyer for the old equipment. Prucnal is hopeful someone will have interest in purchasing satellite dishes and other “head-end” equipment owned by the borough.

At its peak, the borough-owned system had almost 1,500 customers.

Prucnal, who had been a customer of Pitcairn cable for 35 years, said the borough was proud to provide a service for its residents that only a “handful” of communities in Pennsylvania could claim.

“We'd like to thank all of the loyal customers we've had over the years,” said the councilman.

Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or shorne@tribweb.com.

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