Tag: "massachusetts"

Posted September 12, 2019 by lgonzalez

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.

logo-shutesbury-250.jpg 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...

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Posted September 11, 2019 by lgonzalez

This summer, Falmouth, Massachusetts, released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study for a community network. The community, where the year-round population of 32,000 swells to more than 105,000 in the summer, has investigated the possibilities of a publicly owned fiber optic network for the past several years. In early September, Christopher visited the east coast and appeared on FalmouthCommunityTV to share information with the greater Falmouth community.

Falmouth Footsteps

Courtney Bird, who has lead the effort, provides information about how Falmouth has gotten this far. He describes how surprised he was when, at public meetings to discuss better local connectivity, large numbers of people appeared in support of the idea of a publicly owned network. Bird also goes through the steps they took to establish a committee to examine the problem, seek out solutions, and find funding for the study.

Falmouth has received better than expected responses to the RFP, notes Bird, and while they originally expected to decide on a firm by mid-September, he anticipates the decision may be delayed due to the number of proposals. Bird offers updates for local Falmouth and explains what they should expect from the study and from the process.

Peter Cook, who is also on the Committee for a Falmouth Community Network, is IT Director for the local library and a former computer science professor. Peter describes what the Falmouth hopes to learn from the feasibility study. From funding to potential models to possible services, Peter gets into the details of what the community wants from the study. Peter also moves beyond to describe next steps. Falmouth is thinking ahead in order to be prepared and nimble; they encourage locals to stay involved and stay up-to-date.

Learning from Others

Peter and Courtney and the rest of the Committee understand that taking advantage of lessons learned from other communities will help. Christopher answers questions and offers suggestions based on years of research and documented results.

The panel discusses ways to keep the community engaged in the project and the technical needs in the Cape. They review possibilities such as, aging in place, high-...

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Posted July 29, 2019 by lgonzalez

Chicopee has not only reached their crossroad, they’re building it. After debating the pros and cons, the city of around 60,000 people in western Massachusetts recently began to develop their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) residential pilot project. The service, Crossroads Fiber powered by Chicopee Electric Light, will begin with four fiberhoods in Ward 1. 

Brought to You by CEL

In mid-July, Chicopee Electric Light (CEL) announced the locations where service will be available first. CEL plans to offer two options for residential subscribers, both symmetrical:

  • 250 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $59.95 per month
  • 1,000 Mbps (1 gig) for $69.95 per month

The monthly rate includes free Wi-Fi router and there’s no installation fee. CEL will not offer video or voice service and will focus on Internet access at this stage. Businesses will have access to more options and additional services.

logo-crossroads-fiber.png CEL chose the areas for the pilot based on location and the opportunity to experiment with a variety of structures. The utility decided that fiberhoods closer to the existing network with a combination of single family homes, condos, and businesses would create efficient environments to work out potential problems before wider deployment. Subscribers in the pilot areas can expect to be connected to Crossroads Fiber by the end of the summer.

People living in other areas of Chicopee should show their interest in connecting to the network by signing up at the Crossroads Fiber website. CEL has divided the city into 140 fiberhoods and will deploy in areas where enough people have signed up to make deployment financially viable. 

General Manager of CEL Jeffrey Cady told WWLP, “Customers are looking for high-speed Internet these days everything you use, uses the Internet now and it will provide them with the services now they need and the future.”

...

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Posted July 17, 2019 by lgonzalez

The community of Falmouth, Massachusetts, continues to march forward with their plans to find a way to bring better connectivity to the coastal town. Falmouth Economic Development & Industrial Corporation (EDIC) recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study for a community network. Proposals are due August 12, 2019.

Natural Progression

The RFP follows a June 4th meeting attended by about 80 people and a vote from the EDIC a week later to commit $50,000 toward the study. The meeting allowed people in the community to obtain information about the pros and cons of municipal networks and explore the possibilities for Falmouth. 

Executive Director of the EDIC F. Michael DiGiano provided some important facts about the community and the vision for Falmouth:

Falmouth is a coastal community located on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, with a year population of 32,000 and a summer population of more than 105,000. The Town is home to several world-class scientific research organizations, including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Marine Biological Laboratory, and research centers for NOAA and USGS. 

Many businesses and residents experience service problems with the current broadband system especially in summer months when the population triples. The purpose of the feasibility study is determine the viability of a locally owned broadband network that would offer reliable service for the needs of both residential and commercial customers throughout the year.

Comcast offers cable Internet access and DSL is available from Verizon in many areas of town, but neither coverage is ubiquitous. OpenCape maintains a presence in Falmouth, offering services to institutions, including schools and libraries, and to larger businesses. In a few areas of town, OpenCape has started offering residential and small business connectivity in mixed-use buildings. Falmouth hopes the presence of OpenCape fiber in the city will help implement a more cost effective and efficient deployment.

Falmouth Needs Answers

logo-falmouth-ma.png The community is looking for a firm that will:

  • Assess their needs, residential...
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Posted July 1, 2019 by lgonzalez

People in Falmouth, Massachusetts, met on June 4th to discuss the possibilities of developing a municipal network in their city. About 80 people attended the meeting, which they held at the local library. By the end of the evening, attendees had discovered more about the process to build a community network, how their city may move forward, and determined that a key element will be building local support from residents and businesses.

An Advantage on the Cape

Even though Falmouth doesn’t have its own electric utility, as do many towns that ultimately develop municipal broadband networks, the city already has an edge — fiber from nonprofit OpenCape already connects approximately 40 municipal facilities and other community anchor institutions (CAIs). David Isenberg, a resident and former FCC senior advisor, helped organize the meeting and noted that the OpenCape infrastructure will provide an option for better connectivity in the community:

“There is a lot of OpenCape infrastructure in Falmouth that is already here for us to use,” Mr. Isenberg said.

OpenCape could hypothetically manage the community-based fiber-optic network, he said. Other options include the Town of Falmouth, a utility district, the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation or a public/private partnership. A feasibility study would determine the viability of those options.

logo-opencape-new.jpg David Talbot from CTC Technology and Energy was on hand to discuss what sorts of issues a feasibility study would address. A study would help the community determine what assets they have that can facilitate a community network, identify where the existing infrastructure’s gaps are, create a basic network design, and offer a strategy and cost estimates.

Isenberg suggested a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in Falmouth would cost about $30 to $60 million to deploy, but that with sufficient support, the city could find financing...

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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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