We have closely followed the efforts of WiredWest, the collaborative project involving 37 (and growing) towns in western Massachusetts. The group is currently collecting pre-subscription cards to show support for the project. The pre-subscription results will also assist efforts to finance the project by documenting the existing demand.
Plans for the 2,000 mile fiber optic network continue to inch forward with every new town that joins the group. Estimated cost for the network is between $60 million and $120 million and, as the cooperative grows, so does the group's ability to successfully apply for grants and issue bonds. Much of the cooperative's business and technical expertise comes from in-kind contributions from its members. We see Wired West as a prime example of communities coming together to take control of their own destiny.
A recent Berkshire Eagle article by Scott Stafford discussed some of the results from a March marketing survey. From the article:
Average survey respondents have two computers (desktop, lap-top or notebook devices) in the home. And while 88 percent currently have some type of home Internet service, 45 percent are dissatisfied with the speed of their Internet.
The survey also showed that 25 percent who responded currently run a business from home or telecommute. An additional 30 percent said they would likely operate a business out of their home or telecommute if they had better Internet access.
He spoke with Monica Webb, Chair of WiredWest's Executive Committee, who pointed out some economic realities:
"Many people are saying they would start a home-based business or telecommute if they had better broadband access," Webb said. "And there are a number of second homeowners that would stay in the county longer, or relocate here full time, if there was better Internet service."
The impact on the regional economy could be significant. Webb described the role of broadband access to the local economy as "fundamental infrastructure," comparable to the telephone service and electricity.
"We know it will be good for the economy, we're just not sure of the total impact," Webb said.
WiredWest expects the network design and cost estimate to be ready in October. The group will then need to secure funding. They are hoping construction will start in 2013.