First, all Comcast construction is done by contractors for liability reasons. This isn't negotiable for a large company, a single improper process for a contractor digging a utility in could bankrupt even a company of Comcast's size if their employee's were directly involved in the right incident.
The folks digging up our street were Comcast employees (or at least contractors working for Comcast, not some installer company). They drove Comcast trucks. They ran underground pipes that were manufactured specifically for Comcast, with their name printed every few inches all the way down the length of the tubing. Maybe you don't realize just how big a company we're talking about here.
As for liability, there's a little thing called liability insurance. Companies doing that sort of work have to have it, and if they hire a company to do the work, the company they hire has to have it. It is usually required by law. Whether Comcast pays that cost directly or indirectly is irrelevant; they're still paying the cost of that insurance. Comcast chooses to use contractors in some places because they don't have enough work to keep full-time staff occupied, and/or because it confers tax advantages to use contractors instead of employees. The liability claim is just something they tell contractors so they don't realize how badly they're getting screwed.
Second, though it may only cost $200 a day to rent it's rather irrelevant because Comcast pays the going Contract rate for installations.
Think about this: You're a contracting company that specializes in pulling cables. You have two options:
- Work hard to find a bunch of small jobs, knowing that if you can keep your schedule full all day, you'll make n dollars, but realistically knowing that some days you'll barely make n/4 dollars.
- Take a contract with Comcast that pays .5n dollars, knowing that they're going to keep sending you work on an ongoing basis.
Which one would you choose? Most contracting companies would choose B, knowing that they'll still be able to pay their employees the same wages, but the company as a whole will be more immune to market fluctuations.
Third, if you think digging the cable in is the only cost you have no concept. There is the planning and engineering costs, the utility mapping, the right-of-way access, the coordination with the local city and the compliance with the local building codes, the insurance costs, the contract management costs, the inspection costs, the quality control and quality assurance. Pulling and splicing cables through the conduits, power and other interconnection costs, splicing the cables, testing and validation, and plant hookup.
Maybe you didn't read the original post. This was about a rural installation. In my experience, that usually means bare coax cables in the ground (no conduit, and probably not fiber), minimal utility mapping (relatively few houses with taps from the power and phone lines), minimal planning and engineering. I mean yes, you do have to do utility mapping, but it's a whole lot easier to map a rural street with a straight wire that parallels the road than it is to map a suburban street that has wires going in random directions from transformers to houses every fifty or one hundred feet.
The cable company would have to comply with the local building codes no matter what. I doubt there's a huge difference there between a rural install and an urban install. If anything, the rural install is probably more laid back, less rigorous, and has lower overall compliance cost. A building code inspector isn't likely to inspect the entire length of wire, but rather the termini, so that cost should be about the same for a 1,000-foot run as for a 50-foot run, assuming it doesn't require them to install any boosters along the way (and if it did, he/she wouldn't have gotten satisfactory results by running the line himself/herself, so we can safely assume that it did not). Similarly, they had to hook it up to their network whether he was thirty feet from the street or a thousand feet, so that cost is also irrelevant. The only relevant factor that makes this house different from any other is the cost of running a thousand feet of cable in a slit in the ground.
Verizon's pass cost (the cost to put a cable in front of the house) was about $1500 per house in a typical suburban environment. It probably costs about another $500-$1000 to dig the cable to the house install the ONT and pull the cable to the jack.
The pass cost was very nearly paid by having service in the street just 1,000 feet away. Remember that, the cost of running a cable in the suburbs is typically much higher than the cost of doing so in a rural area, because you have to deal with a lot more sidewalks, roads, and driveways. Mind you, the extra distance makes up for a lot of that, but 1,000 feet really shouldn't be a big deal, assuming they don't have to dig up any roads (extra permission) or put up any poles (extra cost and probably extra permission).