Leverett, Massachusetts' broadband initiative has moved to the next phase in bringing fiber to residents. The town selectboard recently decided on a bidder to build the community owned network. G4S designed the network and also works with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) as it brings a middle mile fiber network to towns across the western half of the state [PDF of service area].
An article in The Recorder alerted us to the development. Readers will recall that Leverett townspeople voted to ok a modest property tax increase as a way to help finance the ftth build out. From the article:
Indeed, after years of trying to convince private business to develop and offer high-speed telecommunication service in rural western Massachusetts, Leverett’s first-of-its kind network is being built with the help of a $40 million state bond, $47 million in federal stimulus funding and the town’s willingness to borrow to build infrastructure to attract service.
D’Errico said the cost of the project should be lower than $300 a year per median $278,000 property owner over 20 years.
...D’Errico said the $300 annual tax addition for the median value property is likely far lower than what residents are paying for their telephone, satellite dishes and cable service connections, and that having the town own the infrastructure likely means that the service contracts should also be a fraction of what they would cost otherwise.
Before construction can start, utility poles will need to be made ready for placement of the fiber optic cable. While this stage of the prep work is expected to take up to six months, hanging the cable would only take about three months.
Leverett is inspiring other Massachusetts communities, who also want to own the infrastructure that will allow them to connect to MBI's network, MassBroadband 123.
In fact, Montague selectmen on Monday said they support a move by residents of their town’s Chestnut Hill section — which is contiguous to North Leverett — as they seek to connect with Leverett’s network. The North Leverett Firehouse, the connection point for Leverett’s fiber network to plug into MBI’s fiber network, would be the source of the connection into the system the roughly 50 Montague households seek to build.
As more local communities see how Leverett and similar communities overcome obstacles to achieve connectivity, we are confident that municipal networks will be options they consider.
An editorial in the Recorder points out how local leadership has played an instrumental role in the plan to expand connectivity in town and encourage other communities across the state:
However, it’s not only state government that has a role here. Leverett would not be poised to complete access without town officials seeing the role the town must play and an acceptance on the part of a solid majority of residents willing to see taxpayer money go toward this project.
Perhaps as the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative continues its work to provide access elsewhere, other towns will see that they, too, need to be part of the financial solution in wiring their community. Part of any persuasion, we think should start with what the governor said in October 2007. “Today’s global economy requires that every corner of our commonwealth be wired for the 21st century ... The digital divide that persists in too many Massachusetts communities has gone on for long enough.”
Thanks to the citizens of Leverett, we are closer to finally bridging that divide.
We will bring more on Leverett as the project progresses.