Five months ago volunteers in Shutesbury gathered to inventory local poles to prepare for a possible fiber deployment. Now, more than 40 percent of local households have committed to high-speed Internet access through WiredWest, reports MassLive. Nearby Wendell is also celebrating the 40 percent milestone. According to the article, these are the first communities in the WiredWest region to reach the 40 percent milestone
The next step will be a required two-thirds vote at a town meeting to authorize borrowing to fund the deployment in each community. After that, a majority of voters must approve a debt exclusion in Shutesbury and Wendell to invest in the capital projects as required by state law.
Shutesbury's Broadband Committee Co-chair Gayle Huntress told MassLive that it was no surprise that the community reached the 40 percent threshold needed to move to the next step:
"We are internet-starved," she said. "You should see the people sitting in their cars outside the library and town hall to use the wireless signal."
A small portion of Shutesbury residents already have access to the internet via Verizon DSL, which is built upon deteriorating copper telephone wires, said Huntress. Others use satellite dishes.
Shutesbury is home to approximately 1,800 people on 27 square miles. Wendell is a bit larger at 32 square miles but only 848 people live there.They expect to borrow $1.66 million and $1.19 million respectively to apply to the cost of deployment in their communities.
Massachusetts has offered to contribute up to 40 percent of the funds to connect rural towns to the state's MassBroadband 123 middle mile network, but local communities must contribute the remainder. In Shutesbury, the total cost of the deployment is estimated at $2.58 million.