Tag: "massachusetts"

Posted February 3, 2020 by shrestha

In  November 2017 we reported that Mount Washington, a town of roughly 200 people in southwestern Massachusetts, had deployed its own infrastructure for broadband service. More than two years after the initial setup, a recent article in Government Technology on municipal broadband in Massachusetts takes us back to the tiny town. We learn how fast affordable, reliable publicly owned Internet infrastructure has brought positive transformation to the citizens of Mount Washington, located in the Taconic Mountains.

You Could Barely Use It

The article covers several layers of how high-speed Internet access has provided a jumpstart for the local economy. The small town with its remote landscape and inherent challenges had only two options before broadband: dial-up or a long-distance Wi-Fi service, which provided download speeds of less than 1 Mbps. 

“You could barely use Wi-Fi calling, and it was impossible to stream anything,” said Brian Tobin, Mount Washington select board member. “You could send emails, and you could do Internet searches that just took a long time.”

In spite of the fact that they're the third smallest town in the state, the Mount Washington Broadband Network now offers fiber optic infrastructure and contracts with an Internet access provider to offer speeds which surpasses those in some of the state's much larger communities. Funding for the network is part of a larger state plan to bring broadband to rural towns in need of Internet service. The Government Technology article notes that: 

“Mount Washington benefited from the Last Mile Program, which provided more than $35 million in grants for rural broadband. The program is run by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), which is part of the state agency Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech).”

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Posted January 13, 2020 by lgonzalez

Residents and businesses in Windsor, Massachusetts, are on the cusp of high-quality Internet access delivered on their publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure. After years of coping with slow, unreliable connectivity, this spring will herald in Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access in the town of fewer than 900 people.

It's Almost Here

About a year ago, we reported on the community's project. They received grants from the FCC and from the state toward the $2.3 million fiber optic network. Like several other communities in western Massachusetts, including Plainfield, Alford, and Otis, Windsor will own the infrastructure while Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) provides Internet access via the network through its WhipCity Fiber. WiredWest, the regional collaboration of towns which began as a cooperative network but evolved in recent years to be an ISP and network operator, will manage operation of the network for Windsor.

While grants have helped to drastically reduce the cost of deployment to Windsor, the community will still need to contribute to cover the remaining costs. The Berkshire Eagle reports:

Today, a key financial question for the Windsor project concerns the cost of getting service from the network to homes, the final link known as a "drop." With help from an additional state grant and the town's own resources — $300,000 tapped from a stabilization fund — the first $2,000 in the cost of a drop will be covered.

[Select Board Member and Municipal Light Plant Manager Doug] McNally expects that 85 percent of Windsor subscribers will not have to pay personally to have drops reach their homes. Gov. Charlie Baker approved reimbursing Windsor $750 for each drop, lessening the expense for the town and its new network's customers.

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Posted October 24, 2019 by lgonzalez

Quincy, Massachusetts, recently let the public know that they're serious about encouraging local Internet access competition through public investment. At an October 21st press conference, Mayor Thomas Koch and City Council Member Ian Cain announced that the largest city in Norfolk County will begin gathering data on local interest in a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.

The Choice That Isn't a Choice

With Comcast as the only option for broadband Internet access, leaders such as Cain feel that it's time to encourage competition. DSL is available, but the average speed in the Quincy area is slower than 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download. Upload speeds are likely around 1 Mbps -- hardly the kind of connectivity a community of 94,000 want to boast about.

Limited fiber for commercial subscribers has been deployed in the city, but without more options, Quincy faces a disadvantage as communities around them invest in better connectivity. The Mayor, Cain, and other local leaders have economic development on their minds when considering the initiative. Cain told press conference attendees, "This is a way to really have Quincy stand out in a way that other cities and towns aren't really looking at. This is a way to put us up front," as a way to attract more businesses.

Cain noted that comments from constituents regarding poor Internet access in Quincy have come to his office for the past five years. In 2018, the city council adopted Cain's resolution to investigate the possibility of publicly owned Internet network infrastructure. Residents have also taken their complaints to the Mayor. At the press conference, Koch said:

“I hear constantly from people about lack of competition – some related to cable, some related to slowness of access to get onto the network. This is something we’re very serious about looking at.”

seal-quincy-ma.png In order to...

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Posted October 23, 2019 by Sayidali Moalim

Williamstown, Massachusetts, may ask their constituents to vote on the creation of a publicly owned fiber optic system. For the town of 7,700, a vote on whether or not to invest in fast, affordable, reliable, Internet network infrastructure isn't imminent, however, as Williamstown still has significant research ahead. 

An Ongoing Discussion

This past summer, community leaders learned from Select Board Member Andrew Hogeland more about the possibilities in Williamstown. He gave his update regarding the research on the broadband initiative at a July meeting:

“The answer seems to be: It's promising," Hogeland said.

...

"We are in competition with other towns around the state and country who are doing this," Hogeland said. "There are lots of reasons to come to Williamstown, but if there's another town like us that also has broadband … "

Williamstown began consideration of a municipal network several years ago, when the town’s 2015 Economic Development Committee began to investigate the potential for developing fiber optic infrastructure. The committee released a 2016 report that indicated Williamstown would face certain disadvantages if they didn't improve local connectivity for businesses. The report stated:

"The Best Practices study found a positive correlation between broadband access and economic prosperity. Other studies of the broadband industry confirm this correlation, and indicate that towns with broadband access have a better business environment and higher real estate values compared to communities without broadband."

Williamstown now has access to DSL and cable Internet access; community leaders want to explore interest before diving too deep into the project. The research group for Williamstown plans to do outreach this fall to residents and businesses as well as the possibility of including a survey to assess the demand of municipal fiber optic Internet access in the annual census. Local officials discussed the challenges involved with developing a sustainable municipal broadband project at a recent select board meeting. “Success is: Are you going to have more or less half the households...

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Posted September 26, 2019 by lgonzalez

This November, voters in Easthampton, Massachusetts, will have the chance to grant the city the authority to establish a municipal light plant (MLP). If they pass the ballot measure, the community will legally be able to develop a publicly owned network. Passage doesn't gurantee Easthampton will take the next step and deploy a network, but the community has been researching options to better understand which direction is right for them if they decide to move forward.

Creating the MLP

In keeping with state law, communities in Massachusetts must form an MLP to manage municipal utilities and municipal broadband service. The Easthampton City Council voted twice over the past two fiscal years to approve an MLP, which then allowed the issue to be put on the ballot for voters.

Establishing the MLP doesn’t mean that the city will launch a network, but gives the community the necessary entity to manage it in the future, should they decide to do so. The MLP can also eventually offer other municipal utilities, such as electricity or gas.

Sharing Findings

At a September 11th public hearing, members of the Telecommunications Advisory Committee presented results of a local survey and shared their research. The committee formed in 2018, and began investigating the connectivity situation in Easthampton, possible community network models, and examples from other communities to be prepared if the issue moves forward.

Charter/Spectrum serves most of the community with cable Internet access and Verizon provides DSL in additional areas. According to Council Member Thomas Peake, who is also on the committee, there is little service area overlap between the two companies. The lack of competition from the private sector and resulting dissatisfaction from subscribers — rated an average of 2.94 out of 5 on the survey — prompted Easthampton to look into a publicly owned option.

logo-easthampton-ma.png Price, reliability, and speed were top priorities for survey respondents. Less than 30 percent had never experienced outages and more than 25 percent indicated that they experience outages multiple times per week. Almost 75 percent have or would...

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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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