Mount Washington's 167 residents will not let their small size defeat their big plans for a municipal fiber network. The community is seeking permission from the state legislature to finance, own, and operate a municipal Internet network. The bill granting Mount Washington the authority to do so, S1978, recently passed in the Senate and then moved to the House to await review.
"The Town Among The Clouds" sought special legislation to avoid being bound by the state's requirement that communities establish a Municipal Light Plant (MLP). The MLP is a separate department responsibile for municipal electricity and broadband service. Town leaders believe an MLP would be an administrative burden for such a small community; the State Senate agrees.
Many other communities in western Massachusetts have signed up to work with the WiredWest broadband cooperative to improve local connectivity. Mount Washington residents feel they can complete the project sooner on their own.
Mount Washington, sitting in the Taconic Mountains, is the westernmost and southwesternmost town in Massachusetts and the smallest town in Berkshire County. Mount Washington State Forest and Mount Everett State Reservation cover much of the town creating a forested, sparsely populated area.
According to the Berkshire Eagle:
[Selectman Chair Brian] Tobin said Internet access in Mount Washington is nearly non-existent. Some residents have satellite dishes and other have long-distance Wi-Fi service, "but to my knowledge, no one has dial-up service."
All of these options, he said, are slow and at times unreliable.
Residents consider the project necessary infrastructure:
Tobin said the town opted to push forward on funding and building its own infrastructure because the plan will allow the community to pay for it the same way as any other town project, such as roads and buildings.
"It's something we have to do as a town," he said. "And we have the support for it."