Tag: "massachusetts"

Posted May 10, 2019 by htrostle

At the 2019 Annual Town Meeting, voters in Plainfield, Massachusetts, unanimously approved the $150,000 necessary to begin operating the Plainfield Broadband network. Westfield's Whip City Fiber, about 35 miles south, will be working with Plainfield to manage the latter's network. Plainfield Broadband expects to have Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) high-speed Internet service to a few homes at the end of 2019 and a finished network in 2020.

Local Dollars

The funding comes to about $150,000 in the 2020 town operating budget, and will cover the Plainfield Broadband project expenses. Departmental receipts will pay for about $132,000, and the remaining $18,000 will come out of taxes. In future years, however, the network will be funded through service receipts according to Plainfield Broadband Manager Kimberley Longey in the local newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Longey also told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that 162 residents have signed up for Internet access from Plainfield Broadband; if another 110 residents sign up for service, then the network will be in a secure financial position. Plainfield residents can register online or at the local library.

Plainfield is a small town of only about 600 people and the plan is to bring high-speed Internet service to several homes in late 2019 with a full rollout in 2020. The prices for the Plainfield Broadband services are $85 each month for residential Internet service and $12.95 for phone service. Residential service has upload and download speeds of up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps), and there is no contract for the service.  

A Collaboration of Community Networks 

The town of Plainfield has been working on a plan to improve Internet access for years. In 2015, they created the Plainfield Light and Telecommunications Department, commonly known as Plainfield Broadband, as a Municipal Light Plant (MLP). Originally designed to provide for electricity, MLPs are now also a way for communities to own and operate their own networks for Internet service. 

The town...

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Posted April 26, 2019 by lgonzalez

By this July, the South Hadley Electric Light Department (SHELD) expects to begin serving the the first subscribers to Fibersonic, the town’s municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. Construction, which began in January, is rolling along and SHELD anticipates the citywide project will be completed within four years.

Showing Their Interest

SHELD is signing up subscribers now on the Fibersonic website. Residents who express the desire for the service will also help SHELD see which of the town’s 32 fiberhoods are more likely to gather more subscribers at a rapid rate and can help determine which areas are connected first. The first two areas where construction crews are working are the Ridge Road and Old Lyman Road areas. Each fiberhood will serve approximately 250 to 300 subscribers.

Check out the Fibersonic map, which SHELD will keep updated for the community, to see where construction occurs.

Sean Fitzgerald, who came to SHELD from Westfield Gas + Electric (WG+E), says that the intense interest from the South Hadley public reflects the lack of competition in town. Comcast offers Internet access in South Hadley, along with cable TV and voice services.

“There’s a tremendous amount of interest. Customers are giving us a lot of positive feedback. There’re very hungry to have competition, to have options,” Fitzgerald said, “a chance to pick from different vendors versus having to choose one.”

SHELD offers one level of service: symmetrical gigabit connectivity for $74.95 per month. If subscribers enroll in autopay, the monthly rate drops to $70 per month. There’s no installation fee and the municipal utility offers a seasonal discount for subscribers who will be away from their homes for three to six months.

Like other municipal networks that have been launched in the past few years, Fibersonic won’t offer video. With more people cord cutting and an increasing number of streaming services available...

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Posted April 8, 2019 by lgonzalez

After a citizen effort in Holyoke, Massachusetts, community leaders will let voters decide this fall on the question of analyzing Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) possibilities. 

At the April 4th city council meeting, community leaders passed a recommendation that a nonbinding public opinion advisory question be put on the ballot in November:

Should the Holyoke Gas and Electric conduct a feasibility study on a gradual roll out of fiber optic internet for residents of the City to purchase, and the findings be presented at a City Council meeting by April 2022 or sooner?

There was one Councilor absent and one nonparticipating member of the Council; the measure passed 7 - 4.

First Stop in Committee

The decision to bring the question to voters came after the city’s Charter and Rules Committee reviewed a citizens’ petition in mid-March. A group of citizen gathered signatures for the petition to ask Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E) to conduct a feasibility for an incremental deployment for residential premises in Holyoke. HG&E currently offers fiber connectivity to commercial subscribers. 

Resident Laura Clampitt appeared at the committee meeting to speak in favor of the measure. She and another local resident, Ken Lefbvre, have lead efforts encouraging city leaders to move toward a feasibility study. Locals have shared information via a Facebook page to keep the public up-to-date on the proposal:

“These residents would love to purchase those services as well,” Clampitt said. “We would like to encourage HG&E to explore that option and present those findings in a public manner."

“We’ve seen the figures for the full rollout, $20 million or so. We understand that’s...

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Posted February 25, 2019 by lgonzalez

In May 2018, Mark Hamill and Lee Feldscher penned an opinion piece that ran in the Northampton Daily Hampshire Gazette. In their article, they laid out all the reasons why they believed their city needs a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. Nine months later, city leaders have approved funding for the first of a two-part feasibility study.

Comcast, the City Council, and Community Input

As the Hampshire County seat and home to about 26,000 people, Northampton, Massachusetts, has attracted Comcast as an Internet service provider. The presence of a cable Internet ISP means better connectivity than in most rural areas, but it also has evolved into lack of competition. As is often the result, residents experience poor customer service and are hungry for local Internet choice.

At a February 21st City Council meeting, Hamill and Feldscher spoke in favor of the feasibility study. They also presented a petition created by their grassroots group, Northampton Community Network, filled with hundreds of signatures. 

Feldscher presented the signatures to the mayor at the meeting.

“The unanimous response we received from people was, “Sure, I hate Comcast, where can I sign?” Feldscher said.

At the February 21st meeting, City Council approved funding to survey residents in Northampton to learn more about the potential of a municipal network. The funding, estimated at around $30,000 will come from the city’s Capital Improvement Program. The city will survey the community in 2020 and complete the feasibility study in 2021. Completing the study will cost approximately $40,000.

Feldscher and Hamill weren’t the only Northampton residents to support the resolution to fund the feasibility study. With the repeal of federal network neutrality protections, a growing number of people are concerned that large ISPs, such as Comcast, will take advantage of the gap in protection. Networks owned by and accountable to local citizens can enforce the tenets that the federal government no longer require since they repealed network neutrality, including throttling, data protection, and paid...

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Posted February 1, 2019 by lgonzalez

Expect to see more Massachusetts communities connected to their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks during 2019. Westfield Gas + Electric (WG+E) has been working with the rural towns on the western side of the state, and an increasing number of the projects are nearing completion. With the arrival of their broadband hut in December, the folks in New Salem embraced their Broadband Committee’s adopted motto, “This Is Really Happening!”

Summer of Speed

Broadband Committee members estimate their publicly owned community network will launch in July as they bring better Internet access to the town of about 1,000 people. After more than three years of seeking a way to high-quality Internet access, delivery of the hut was a physical manifestation of the hard work needed to make this goal happen. Committee member Sue Dunbar told the Greenfield Recorder, “It’s a huge, big brick visual reminder to the town residents, who have been waiting for so long, that this is a reality.”

There's Always Ups and Downs

The project has not been without snags. Underestimates of make ready costs, partly due to long driveways for some potential subscribers, drove up deployment costs, which are still not finalized at around $3 million. A few property owners had opposed new utility poles on or near their property, which hampered a smooth deployment. The fact that the state’s Department of Conservation & Recreation owns swaths of New Salem also interfered with the process by adding an additional level of approval to pole installation.

According to Dunbar, however, New Salem is collaborating with nearby Shutesbury and Wendell, and that collaboration is helping to improve the deployment process. All three communities have contracted with WG+E to build their publicly owned networks. Wendell expects to begin connecting premises in the fall, while Shutesbury is aiming for a May launch. 

Readers may remember that Shutesbury was one of the communities that sent Charter packing when the corporate ISP proposed to serve fewer than all the homes in the community...

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Posted January 2, 2019 by lgonzalez

The small town of Windsor is joining the list of communities in western Massachusetts who are taking measures to improve local connectivity with publicly owned Internet infrastructure. The town of fewer than 1,000 people anticipates connecting all residents and businesses before the end of 2019.

Grants Are So Good

Windsor is benefitting from a grant of more than $886,000 from the FCC Connect America Fund, to be distributed over a 10-year period. Six other Berkshire County communities will also receive funding from the FCC; Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) applied for the funding on behalf of the region’s communities. In total, the seven towns will receive more than $2.45 million during the next decade to improve local broadband. The Westfield utility has been working with its neighbors in recent years in different capacities, including as an ISP, network operator, and as consultants.

Community leaders originally estimated Windsor’s planned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network would cost approximately $2.3 million. Select Board Member Doug McNally said that the community may use the award from the FCC to help pay down debt to deploy the network or may be used directly to help residents who have long driveways, requiring more individual investment to connect to the town’s network.

Windsor also received approximately $830,000 from the state in 2017 and previously approved borrowing to fund deployment. Windsor had planned to work with the WiredWest cooperative, until the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) put up several hurdles that interfered with the cooperative’s ability to realize their business model. WiredWest has revamped what it plans to offer member towns and, according to McNally, Windsor may contract with the co-op for Internet access and operate the network.

If Windsor chooses WiredWest, subscribers could choose between symmetrical packages of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $59 per month or 1 gigabit per second for $75 per month. Voice service would cost an additional $19 per month. All subscribers also pay an additional $99 activation fee.

The community could,...

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Posted December 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

The people of Charlemont, Massachusetts, are ready to pay approximatly $1.5 million to own broadband infrastructure rather than shell over $462,000 to Comcast for cable Internet access in their community. At a packed December 6th town meeting, voters showed up to handily defeat the proposal from the cable giant and express their support for a publicly owned fiber optic network.

Making the Best Choice for Charlemont

According to Robert Handsaker, who chairs the Charlemont Broadband Committee, the standing room only crowd at the local school defeated the Comcast proposal by a 20 percent margin. He went on to state that the town already has a design prepared, which it developed with Westfield Gas + Electric (WG+E). WG+E has been working with approximately 20 western Massachusetts towns interested in publicly owned broadband networks in several different capacities, including consulting and design. Having developed their own network, WhipCity Fiber, the Westfield utility is now offering skills as a consultant and as a network operator to nearby communities.

The Comcast proposal required Charlemont to kick in more than $462,000 while only serving 96 percent of the community. Ownership of the infrastructure would have remained with the national company. The city has been exploring options for at least two years, after plans for the broadband cooperative Wired West changed. When voters at a 2015 town meeting voted to approve borrowing for the project, community leaders considered Leverett’s financing model, using moderate property taxes to fund the project.

In the warrant article fact sheet comparing the two proposals side by side, Charlemont plans rates for $79 per month for symmetrical gigabit stand alone Internet access unless the local take rate falls below 40 percent, in which case it would increase to $99 per month. Comcast service would cost from $61 - $311 per month depending on speeds, with 100 Megabits per second (Mbps)...

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Posted December 11, 2018 by lgonzalez

By the time a local community is ready to light up their municipal fiber optic network, they’ve already invested several years' worth of debate, investigation, and energy. While deploying a network is certainly a complicated task, educating the community, growing support, and helping elected officials determine the best approach is equally difficult. What’s it like in the early stages for those visionaries who feel that their city or town needs a publicly owned option?

This week we find out from Chicopee’s Joel McAuliffe, Councilor for Ward 1. He’s been advocating for a municipal broadband network for several years and his message is growing. In addition to working to educate his fellow council members about the need for local high-speed Internet access, Joel has reached out to folks in the community. Last fall, he encouraged citizens to sign an online petition supporting the proposal and to contact their elected officials to urge them to move forward on the matter.

Joel describes how the city has certain advantages that he’d like capitalize on for a citywide fiber network. He talks about local concerns that are driving the effort, such as high rates and poor services, and that with a municipal network to offer competition, he believes Chicopee can attract new business and new residents from the Boston area. Chris and Joel also discuss the challenges for a city council in making decisions based on technology when they are not well-versed in those technologies.

When Joel introduced his petition to the community, he also published this...

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Posted November 21, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

Ninety miles west of Boston, the small town of South Hadley, Massachusetts, will soon have a new, municipal option for Internet access. In October, the South Hadley Electric Light Department (SHELD) Board of Commissioners unanimously approved plans to build a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network throughout the town of 17,000. The network would bring high-speed fiber connectivity to South Hadley businesses and residents, who can currently choose between Comcast and Verizon for Internet access, while also enabling the municipal electric utility to implement smart grid technologies.

SHELD has been considering offering fiber optic Internet access to residents for several years. After hiring the current General Manager, Sean Fitzgerald, in 2017, management started to seriously examine the possibility of building a FTTH network. “What we’ve really been focused on this last year and a half,” Fitzgerald shared at the SHELD Board of Commissioners meeting, “is being diligent in reviewing the costs, the risks, the economic benefits for our customers and the South Hadley community at large.” In approving the network, Commissioner Vern Blodgett said, “SHELD is really ready financially and management-wise to take on a project like this.”

Smart Grid, Economic Development Benefits

One reason for SHELD’s interest in a fiber network is the potential to deploy Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI). While evaluating plans to provide Internet access, electric department management realized that current meters needed to be replaced, providing a perfect opportunity to upgrade to smart meter technology that could be integrated into the fiber network. This technology could help the utility better manage the electric grid load and respond to outages, ultimately saving SHELD money and improving customer experience. “It’s the future [of electric service],” Fitzgerald explained to the board. “If your power goes out, we will know maybe even before you do.”

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Posted October 29, 2018 by lgonzalez

We came across this cool video shared by Taunton Municipal Light Plant (TMLP) in Taunton, Massachusetts, and wanted to share it. This quick vid reminds us that, even though the Internet may seem like “magic” because it connects us with other continents, it’s actually science, work, and investment.

BTW, What's Up in Taunton?

When we last checked in with TMLP in March 2018, they had just implemented a fiberhood approach to sign up residential subscribers. According to their website, people are responding; nine neighborhoods are connected and almost two dozen others are accepting applications. Once 25 percent of premises have submitted their applications for installation, TMLP provides a timeline for installation in the area. Eight neighborhoods in Taunton are already connected.

Taunton began with fiber connectivity for businesses in 1997 and began residential services by offering their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to an apartment complex. The complex and the first neighborhood they connected were situated near the community high school, already served by TMLP. Other institutions, such as a local hospital and associated clinics have also been signed up with TMLP fiber for years.

Keeping the Community Up to Speed, Affordably

TMLP offers symmetrical connectivity at either $34.95 per month for 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) or $69.95 per month for 1 gigabit. They also offer VoIP service for $19.95 per month. Like many other publicly owned networks that have opted not to offer video services, TMLP is finding ways to educate the public about viewing options. They recently held a workshop on cutting the cord at the local library and have resources on their website for users interested on learning more.

There are about 57,000 people living in Taunton, the county seat of Bristol County. While the history of the community's economy goes back to shipbuilding and silversmithing, today Taunton has an active semiconductor, silicon and electronics manufacturing base. 

Check it out the Business Insider video on intercontinental connectivity:

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