Fiber Pilot Project Work Commences in Chicopee, Massachusetts

Chicopee has not only reached their crossroad, they’re building it. After debating the pros and cons, the city of around 60,000 people in western Massachusetts recently began to develop their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) residential pilot project. The service, Crossroads Fiber powered by Chicopee Electric Light, will begin with four fiberhoods in Ward 1. 

Brought to You by CEL

In mid-July, Chicopee Electric Light (CEL) announced the locations where service will be available first. CEL plans to offer two options for residential subscribers, both symmetrical:

  • 250 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $59.95 per month
  • 1,000 Mbps (1 gig) for $69.95 per month

The monthly rate includes free Wi-Fi router and there’s no installation fee. CEL will not offer video or voice service and will focus on Internet access at this stage. Businesses will have access to more options and additional services.

logo-crossroads-fiber.png CEL chose the areas for the pilot based on location and the opportunity to experiment with a variety of structures. The utility decided that fiberhoods closer to the existing network with a combination of single family homes, condos, and businesses would create efficient environments to work out potential problems before wider deployment. Subscribers in the pilot areas can expect to be connected to Crossroads Fiber by the end of the summer.

People living in other areas of Chicopee should show their interest in connecting to the network by signing up at the Crossroads Fiber website. CEL has divided the city into 140 fiberhoods and will deploy in areas where enough people have signed up to make deployment financially viable. 

General Manager of CEL Jeffrey Cady told WWLP, “Customers are looking for high-speed Internet these days everything you use, uses the Internet now and it will provide them with the services now they need and the future.”

Local televised media also covered the developments:

A Little Push

In October 2018, Ward 1 City Councilor Joel McAuliffe asked folks in Chicopee to sign his online petition asking the City Council to express their support for a municipal FTTH network. His own constituents had contacted him with complaints about poor service from incumbents Spectrum and Verizon. People in the community were tired of poor quality Internet access and many were aware of other western Massachusetts communities that have been developing publicly owned fiber infrastructure.

Holyoke Gas & Electric, has been offering Internet access to businesses in Chicopee for around a decade, but residents are still stuck with the large corporate Internet access providers. The city commissioned a feasibility study in 2015 and it revealed that the community would benefit from a municipal network. A 2018 follow-up study confirmed that recommendation. 

Soon after McAuliffe created his petition, CEL announced that plans for the pilot project were in the works, but had not been finalized. In fact, the utility had already chosen to name the new service Crossroads Fiber to describe how the community was “truly at a crossroads in technology and CEL is positioned perfectly to ensure our community can take full advantage of what gigabit speeds can offer,” Cady recently said in a recent follow-up interview.

In December 2018, we spoke with McAuliffe about the city and his efforts to move Chicopee toward a municipal network. In addition to discussing the reasons people in Chicopee are interested in a locally owned initiative, he talked about the challenges that face community leaders who must make decisions about technology when they don’t have detailed knowledge on which to base those decisions. Listen to the conversation from episode 335 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast:

Image of Elms College by John Phelan [CC BY-SA 3.0]