Community members in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, are now receiving fast affordable, reliable connectivity in their homes and businesses delivered via their publicly owned broadband infrastructure.
It's Happening and People Are Loving It
In late August, officials from Shutesbury announced that they expected testing and verification to be completed in early September. The company hired for installation had scheduled more than 200 premises for September and was making plans to hire additional installers to speed up the process. Shutesbury expects to have most of the town connected to the network by the end of 2019.
In May, 87 percent of the town had already signed up and subscribers have continued to trickle in. Folks in Shutesbury are now beginning to obtain the Internet access they’ve been chasing for more than five years.
No, Charter, Not You
In 2017, the town rejected a proposal from Charter Spectrum that would have connected 96 percent of the community of around 1,700 people. The offer from the cable comany had come about when the state agency tasked with distributed state funding suddenly had a change of heart. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) decided that the big corporate ISPs, which had refused to upgrade services in the area in the past, should have another opportunity to use state funding to build high-quality Internet access infrastructure. Read more about decisions from MBI that delayed connectivity to many rural towns and strengthened monopoly power for companies that had refused to connect the region.
Even though they would have not had to bond, citizens didn’t consider it a good deal. People from Shutesbury wanted every premise connected to fiber. They also didn't want to enter into an agreement with the big ISP because it refused to commit to a specific dollar amount for connecting remaining properties. Voters had already approved bonding to invest in a publicly owned fiber optic network to every premise in town and Charter’s proposal wasn’t up to the standards that Shutesbury residents sought. After considering the options, Shutesbury decide to move forward with a public investment and combine bond funds with state funding to build fiber optic infrastructure.
Westfield Gas + Electric (WG+E) helped Shutesbury with deployment and has worked with other communities in the region as consultants and, in some communities, offering services via city networks. Alford, Otis, and New Salem are only a few of the dozens that have decided on WG+E, a trusted a neighbor and public utility, over one of the large corporate Internet access companies that have ruined their reputations in western Massachusetts.
Crocker Communications will offer Internet access and voice service via the publicly owned fiber. The town will offer one tier — 1 gigabit per second symmetrical — at $75 per month. If subscribers wish to add VoIP service, the package will cost $89 per month. Phone service alone is $75 per month. People who did not take advantage of early sign-ups in order to waive installation fees, will now be charged $200.
Way to go, Shutesbury!
Image of Shutesbury Town Hall by John Phelan [CC BY 3.0]