Tag: "massachusetts"

Posted May 19, 2021 by Jericho Casper

In his $100 billion “California Comeback Plan”, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to devote $7 billion to invest in expanding broadband access over the next three years, with $4 billion of that to be used for constructing a statewide middle-mile, open access fiber network.

The $7 billion earmarked for broadband in the budget proposal, referred to as the “May Revision” [pdf], specifically includes:

  • $4 billion for a statewide middle-mile, open access fiber network to connect Census Designated Places (CDP) which lack access to broadband service capable of providing 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) downstream 

  • $500 million for a Loan Loss Reserve Account, a public financing program to assist local governments, Tribes, and nonprofits financing new municipal fiber networks

  • $500 million for one-time payments to broadband providers serving rural areas where it is more costly to build community networks

  • $2 billion for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to incent existing and new Internet Service Providers to build last-mile infrastructure

Gov. Newsom’s infrastructure plan now heads to the State Legislature, where it must be voted on by June 15.

Newsom’s plan is to allocate this funding over a period of several years, allotting $2 billion of federal Rescue Plan funds in Fiscal Year 2021-22, and $1.5 billion in state General Fund resources combined with $3.5 billion in Rescue Plans funds in Fiscal Year 2022-23. To fund the overall $100 billion budget proposal, if passed, the state would combine a total of $25 billion in federal relief funding with $75.7 billion from the state’s budget surplus.

“Let’s get this done once and for all, so that no future administration is talking about the scourge of the digital divide,” said Gov. Newsom, in a press conference on Friday. “This is what the federal stimulus from my perspective was all about: catalytic investments to make generational change. This is one of those investments.”

Newsom’s Plan Provides Technical Assistance Teams and Loans for Communities

More specifically, the “Comeback Plan” would construct a public backhaul network that connects cities and critical anchor institutions to one another, while leaving local communities, cooperatives,...

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Posted May 4, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

As the oldest son of the legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie — the Town of Washington, Massachusetts’ most famous resident — built a name for himself as a singer-songwriter by letting folks know, “You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant.”

But if you ask the town’s Broadband Manager Kent Lew, there was one thing that was not on the menu in Washington before last year: high-speed Internet connectivity.

That’s no longer the case as the small town of Washington (pop. 549) has been on the vanguard of rural communities in the hill towns of the Berkshires that have built out (or are in the process of building out) Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks to bring gigabit speeds and affordable connectivity for residents for decades into the future.

The Pandemic: Curse & Blessing

“On the eve the Governor announced the (pandemic) shut down in March of 2020, our first Fiber Service Area was ready,” Lew recalled in a recent interview with us. “It was tremendous that we were able to do this just as people really needed it.”

As one of dozens of Western Massachusetts towns working in partnership with municipal utility provider Westfield Gas + Electric (which operates Whip City Fiber) to build broadband infrastructure, it was in 2015 that Town Meeting voters authorized a $770,000 bond issuance to finance half the construction costs of the $1.47 million network. The other half came from state grant funding.

The network design work wrapped up in 2018 with construction beginning in earnest the following year. The First Service Area was set to be lit up in March of 2020 and the entire rest of the network, which passes all 280 premises in town, was completed two months later in May of 2020 with construction crews having deployed 26.5 miles of fiber.

Still, the initial months of the pandemic lock-down, Lew said, was a “very frustrating period. Just...

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Posted April 14, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Weymouth, Massachusetts is considering building municipal network as a result of "residents experienc[ing] undesirable coverage options and rates because of the lack of competition from other providers, officials say."

From The Patriot Ledger:

[Mayor Robert] Hedlund will submit a proposal to the Weymouth Town Council asking to use about $25,000 to fund a master plan as the first step in the process. The money would come from the host community agreement with Algonquin Gas Transmission, the company that owns the natural gas compressor station.

Posted February 9, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

Leyden is located in one of the most rural parts of northwestern Massachusetts, along the edge of the Berkshires tucked away in the valleys of the Green River bordering Vermont.

Though it is only 47 miles north of Springfield and 96 miles west of Boston, this town of about 800 residents is one of only a handful of municipalities in the entire Commonwealth that does not have any state routes running through it, similar to the islands of Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard off the southeast coast of Massachusetts.

And while Leyden is not a geographical island, it has been a digital outpost barren of broadband. That is until now - with the birth of Leyden Broadband as the town is nearly done with the construction of a 35-mile Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.

From DSL ‘Backwater’ to Fiber Haven 

“Without any major routes here, we get very little ancillary traffic through town. It’s kept us below the radar. We’ve always been a lightly populated hill town that doesn’t really offer a financial reward for the big telecom companies to come in with high-speed broadband,” Andy Killeen, chair of the Leyden Municipal Light Plant and volunteer head of the town’s fledgling Broadband Department, told us this week.

“Folks were running DSL but that worked pretty poorly. We are not close to the copper (DSL) hubs, which means you could pretty much handle email, but that was about it,” said Killeen, who owns and operates a home safety and security business in the nearby town of Greenfield.

The DSL days are over for residents in this 18-square mile town. Leyden may be a “kind of backwater town,” as Killeen put it, but the townspeople are Leydenites; not Luddites.

“We’ve gone from industry-trailing Internet [access] speeds to top-end network connectivity with gigabit speed that rivals anything you can get in Boston,” Killeen said, looking out of his living room window at the nearby mountain range as a bird streaked across the winter sky, his son cozied up next to him streaming a Disney Plus movie in 4K.

Killeen and his family aren’t the only ones in Leyden enjoying the new high-speed connectivity. Of the 343 households in town, 268 have already subscribed for...

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Posted January 30, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Local citizens and officials have been moving the needle on the Falmouth Community Network, completing a feasibility with the help of CCG Consulting in December and continuing to pursue public awareness and education efforts in the area. ILSR's Christopher Mitchell joined Cape, Coast, and Islands Radio on Tuesday to talk about the effort and the promises it holds for those who live in the area.

Other guests on the show include:

David Isenberg, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Labs, Senior Advisor to the FCC's National Broadband Plan, and Board Member of FalmouthNet.

Marilois Snowman, CEO of MediaStruction, a media and marketing firm in the Boston area, V.P. of FalmouthNet, Inc.

Sam Patterson, Falmouth Select Board member and Select Board's Representative to the Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC).

Listen to the episode here.

Posted January 22, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Western Massachusetts stands as maybe the most dynamic place for municipal broadband at the present, with almost two dozen cities pursuing projects. And while the slate has many similarities between them, each has a unique starting point and has followed its own path along the way. 

Cummington (pop. 800), which straddles the banks of the Westfield River thirty miles northwest of Springfield and twenty miles east of the New York border, has just completed its municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. It has been almost a decade in the making, and despite seeing its share of obstacles along the way, residents can now look forward to years of fast, affordable Internet access. 

Stuck on DSL

Ten years ago, Cummington had no high-speed Internet access options. Verizon offered the only DSL service in town, and its network in the area remained a relic of upgrades focused not on residents there but in the population centers to the east. Only half the town was covered, relegated to download speeds in the single digits and upload speeds at a fraction of that. The rest of the town’s residents were stuck with satellite service, which was even slower and more unreliable with changing weather. 

The story of broadband for western Massachusetts is a winding road. At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the state of Massachusetts received initially funding for its MassBroadband 123 backbone network (currently, it’s operated by KCST USA, formerly Axia Networks), which would bring middle-mile infrastructure to schools and libraries in 120 towns and communities in the area (including a spur in Cummington [pdf]) by 2014. Residents, however, remained unconnected. 

In 2010, Municipal Light Plant Chairman Allan Douglas shared, the town got together to explore options. In the spring and summer of 2011 it voted to join WiredWest, the consortium of towns which have banded together to pursue better broadband. An engineering study completed by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute determined last-mile...

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Posted December 31, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The Milton, Massachusetts Municipal Fiber Initiative recently launched a friendly petition to collect signatures to present to the city select board in support of a city-wide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to increase competition, speed, reliability, and customer service while lower Internet access costs for residents. From the group's website:

We are a community-led effort to create a fiber-optic, municipal broadband network in the town of Milton, MA.  We believe a community-owned, state of the art, 100% fiber network is necessary to provide everyone in town - residents, town government, local businesses and non-profits - with better access, more choice, lower prices, blazing fast speeds, and superior reliability...now and for decades to come!

The group indicates that the town has already created a municipal broadband committee as well as a design and cost estimate done by CTC Energy and Technology [pdf]. 

From the petition:

To all our Milton friends and neighbors -

The MMFI is collecting signatures for a friendly petition to the Milton Select Board. Our intention is to demonstrate public support for municipal broadband, and to urge the board to take the next steps towards the establishment of a municipal broadband network.

The Select Board has made some great progress already with the appointment of a Municipal Broadband Committee.   The committee's efforts culminated in a cost and design estimate for the creation of a 100% fiber, municipally-owned broadband network, providing the town with a viable road map to a town-wide, fiber-to-every-premise network.   

We're asking you to join us in our efforts to keep the process going.  We hope we can make the case to you, our Milton friends and neighbors, that municipal broadband is an investment in Milton's future, a public asset that will serve community needs for generations. 

Massachusetts has seen a flurry of recent activity in municipal broadband. Falmouth is considering a network, and Whip City Fiber (Westfield, Mass.) is in the process of helping almost...

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Posted December 10, 2020 by Sean Gonsalves

Cape Cod, a peninsula in southeastern Massachusetts that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean like a flexed arm, has long been known as a top summer vacation destination and upscale retirement haven going back to when JFK launched his Presidential campaign from his family’s Hyannisport homestead.

During the height of the summer tourist season the population swells to over a million people as visitors from all over the world come to enjoy its picturesque beaches as well as its trails, shops, and seafood. And while the region’s economy is reliant on tourism, the Cape is home to 250,000 year-round residents spread out across 1,306 square miles in 15 towns, many of whom would like to see the regional economy become more diversified, even if the decades-old vision of transforming it into the “silicon sandbar” remains a pipe dream.

What members of a fledgling citizens group in the town of Falmouth have in mind may not be as grandiose as a “silicon sandbar,” but this week they got evidence that their vision of building a municipal-owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network is no pipe dream. 

Falmouth Feasibility Study

In the summer of 2019, David Isenberg – a longtime Falmouth resident, a former Bell Labs scientist, and Senior Advisor to the FCC’s National Broadband Plan – along with a handful of other residents formed the citizens group pushing for a FTTH network in Falmouth. They went before the town’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) to lay out their vision. The group noted that Falmouth, the second-largest town on Cape Cod with a population of about 30,000 year-round residents, could do what 16 other Off-Cape Massachusetts towns have done – build a locally-controlled Internet access network. Then and there, Falmouth EDIC approved $50,000 for the study, concluding that “all sectors of Falmouth’s economy require reliable, high-speed Internet service.”

The results of the study conducted by CCG Consultants were released this week. The study found that more than 60% of residents and many businesses would subscribe, and that it would be financially feasible to build and operate the envisioned network.

“This new fiber network would eliminate the slowdowns and interruptions in [I]nternet service...

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Posted December 4, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The excellently named Wicked Local reports that the city council of Cambridge, Massachussetts remains deadlocked about what to do to expand broadband to those who need it. Proponents of a municipal network continue to face opposition from some elected city leaders, while others are pushing fixed wireless as a quicker, less immediately expensive solution.

Posted December 4, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The collection of western Massachusset's towns continue to make progress on network construction, with Becket beginning it's build over the winter. The town has been split into 10 service areas which will be brought online between now and the end of 2022. Wired West will manage the network once it's complete.

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