Tag: "massachusetts"

Posted April 12, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

The Massachusetts Broadband Initiative's (MBI) MassBroadband 123 network is becoming a reality. On March 28th, MBI lit up the first 35-mile stretch, linking Sandisfield, traveling through Otis, and connecting at the Springfield Technical Community College Technology Park hub. The inaugural connection was the first in a series of build outs that are scheduled to be completed by July 2013 [PDF of map and schedule].

MassBroadband 123 is the middle mile open access network snaking its way across central and western Massachusetts. The project, funded with $40 million in state bond proceeds and $45.4 million in stimulus funding, is scheduled to bring the 1,200 mile network to the anchor institutions in approximately 120 communities. While MassBroadband 123 will not offer last-mile connectivity to residents, it will bring the possibility to many rural areas that have little or no options today. Communities with their own networks, like Leverett, will be able to connect with MassBroadband 123. Hopes are that the open access nature of the network will inspire private providers to offer more last-mile connections.

MassLive.com reported on the first use of the network by school children in rural Otis. Kids at Farmington River Elementary School connected in Spanish with kids from Columbia and learned about physics from the NASA Goddard Space Fight Center in Maryland:

“It was really excellent,” said Mary G. Turo, principal of Farmington River Elementary, in a phone interview. 

...

“We are a little isolated,” Turo said. “Having the capability to bring the outside world to us, you cannot put a price on it. We want our kids to be ready for the future. In order to be ready to for the future they have to know what is going on outside their hometown .”

Judith Dumont, director of MBI, compares the expansion of the network to government efforts to expand electricity in the 1930s. From the article:

Back then...

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Posted April 1, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

We recently reached out to Princeton, Massachusetts, after reading several local news articles about the city's ambition to improve broadband in the community. Phyllis Booth of the Landmark has been covering the story. Community leaders recently mailed survey cards to every residence in town and put the survey online to provide ample opportunity for feedback.

With survey results complied, the answer from respondents was an overwhelming, "Yes! We want better Internet!" The Princeton Broadband Committee has since made the results available in a series of visuals that express the community's experiences with speed, customer satisfaction, desirable applications, and other respondent concerns. Detailed survey results are available for review [PDF].

The results come as no surprise to Stan Moss, Board of Selectmen Member who is also on the Broadband Committee. "Everybody has tried everything," says Stan when he describes the survey outcome. The community of 3,300 has access to DSL in about 49% of households and other choices are satellite, dial-up, and wireless. According to Moss, Princeton DSL customers averaged a D+. From the Landmark article:

“Once we invest in the fiber it’s pretty good. It’s not costly to upgrade in the future, it’s reliable once it’s in place,” said [Broadband Committee Member John] Kowaleski. “If the town doesn’t do this, no one will,” he added. The town has contacted Verizon and Charter and “we’re not even on their plan,’’ said Kowaleski. “Princeton has insurmountable challenges. It isn’t profitable for Verizon or any other company to provide the infrastructure to give us the service,” said Kowaleski.

Moss says he receives calls on a regular basis from residents who want to know when the city is going to provide FTTH. Most of those calls come from people who work from home or have school age children.

Princeton, Massachusetts Map

K-8 Schools in Princeton currently use slow and unreliable T1...

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Posted March 14, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

Leverett, Massachusetts' broadband initiative has moved to the next phase in bringing fiber to residents. The town selectboard recently decided on a bidder to build the community owned network. G4S designed the network and also works with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) as it brings a middle mile fiber network to towns across the western half of the state [PDF of service area].

An article in The Recorder alerted us to the development. Readers will recall that Leverett townspeople voted to ok a modest property tax increase as a way to help finance the ftth build out. From the article:

Indeed, after years of trying to convince private business to develop and offer high-speed telecommunication service in rural western Massachusetts, Leverett’s first-of-its kind network is being built with the help of a $40 million state bond, $47 million in federal stimulus funding and the town’s willingness to borrow to build infrastructure to attract service.

D’Errico said the cost of the project should be lower than $300 a year per median $278,000 property owner over 20 years.

...

...D’Errico said the $300 annual tax addition for the median value property is likely far lower than what residents are paying for their telephone, satellite dishes and cable service connections, and that having the town own the infrastructure likely means that the service contracts should also be a fraction of what they would cost otherwise.

Before construction can start, utility poles will need to be made ready for placement of the fiber optic cable. While this stage of the prep work is expected to take up to six months, hanging the cable would only take about three months.

MBI Logo

Leverett is inspiring other Massachusetts communities, who also want to own the infrastructure that will allow them to...

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Posted February 7, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

We enjoy bringing you news from western rural Massachusetts and the WiredWest Cooperative. We want to share the update on 2012 activities and some of the plans for 2013.

Sixteen new towns became members in 2012, which brings the grand total to 42. Business planning progressed during 2012. From the WiredWest newletter:

Significant work was undertaken in 2012 to enable financing and buildout of the network. That work was made possible by grants from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Central Berkshire Fund, in addition to support from donations, Cooperative membership fees, and thousands of volunteer hours.

The group also conducted a market survey in member towns. WiredWest confimed that demand is strong in the region. The organization is using the information to determine what services to offer and to support pro-forma financial statements, developed with help from groups that know the ins and outs of community broadband:

WiredWest has created comprehensive pro-forma financial statements with input from other municipal fiber networks and appropriate financial expertise. The leadership team has met with a number of public and private financing sources and advisers to refine our financing strategy and put the project on track for financing in 2013.

WiredWest also commenced a Support Card Campaign in its member towns. Potential customers, commercial and residential, shared their support and the results will help with network design. The campaign will provide potential funders evidence of interest in future network services. Residents and businesses can still complete a Support Card and are...

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Posted January 17, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

In 2007, the City of Amherst, Massachusetts received a $150,000 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build a wireless mesh network. DARPA and NSF have long been interested in developing mesh networks that are more resilient than traditional hub and spoke type networks.

The City IT Department, UMass Amherst Office of Information Technology Department, DARPA and NSF collaborated to deploy the network that now covers much of the city.

According to GazetteNet.com, the city is now investing another $50,000 to upgrade the system which now extends a mile through downtown. From the article:

“We definitely have the fastest and largest outdoor Wi-Fi network in the state,” said Information Technology Director Kristopher Pacunas.

The new system, which replaces aging equipment that was part of a smaller municipal Wi-Fi system, will be a boon to those who live, work and shop in downtown Amherst, said Pacunas, who anticipates as many as 2,000 different people will use the system daily.

“We’ve seen data in the short time we’ve had this (that) people will come to downtown areas with free Wi-Fi,” Pacunas said.

While the new upgrades were not officially launched until the start of 2013, Pacunas said that over 10,400 people used the system in the weeks leading up to the new year. Pacunas also notes that the network has limited functionality indoors, being designed mostly for public outdoor spaces downtown.

 The Town of Amherst Public WiFi website describes how the design was meant to blend in with the look of the city and the light and utility poles that house the access points. There are 30 wireless mesh access points and burst speeds up to 80 Mbps. This is another example of how a municipal network can create direct benefits AND indirect benefits simply through its implementation. Also from the article:

Alex Krogh-Grabbe, director of the Amherst Business Improvement District, said he sees the benefits of the system.

“The new downtown Wi-Fi put downtown Amherst and its business district way ahead of most communities in...

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Posted December 23, 2012 by Lisa Gonzalez

After six years in the making, the OpenCape network is soon to be delivering services. According to a Sandwich Wicked Local article, town selectmen were informed on December 6th that the Brockton-to-Plymouth stretch of the network will be activated before the end of 2012 for testing. We brought you detailed news of the $40 million project earlier this year.

Funded with a $32 million Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant and $8 million from the state, county, and private venture firm CapeNet. According to the article, 200 miles of fiber are installed and 50 are in construction or are being leased. Construction was set back when Hurrican Sandy hit the east coast. Verizon NStar crews, working on the install, were all pulled and sent to New York and New Jersey.

The news from OpenCape Chief Executive Officer Dan Vortherms was welcome. The community has been waiting patiently to tap into the improved access, economic development, and cost savings. From the article:

Selectman Frank Pannorfi said broadband might service several initiatives the town has planned for some time; alluding perhaps to South Sandwich Village and its business potential.

“We’ve been waiting for this a long time,” Pannorfi said.

A much needed data center is just beginning construction. The data center and the network will belong to the non-profit OpenCape. The purpose of the middle-mile network is to "support the economic, educational, public safety and governmental needs of the region.

Posted December 20, 2012 by Lisa Gonzalez

This past spring, we introduced you to the small town of Leverett, in rural western Massachusetts. Having been largely ignored by the cable companies and left behind by Verizon's DSL service, the community overwhelmingly approved a town-owned network initiative in a May vote. They decided to finance the FTTH network with a 20-year bond measure.

The debt will be serviced by both the revenues from selling services on the network and a modest increase in property taxes estimated at 6%. Local leaders calculate the increase in property taxes will amount to less than the savings created by lowering existing DSL and telephone services. 

Peter d'Errico, of the Leverett Broadband Committee gave us an update via email:

We issued a Request for Information (RFI) in September. Thirteen respondents gave us a wealth of information about the state of the industry and their readiness to engage with our project. Based on this information, together with our already-completed network design, we are now crafting an Invitation for Bids (IFB) for the network build and one year's maintenance. We expect to issue the IFB early January, with a return date in February, which will allow us to select a contractor shortly thereafter.

As soon as we issue the IFB, we will draft a Request for Proposals (RFP) for network operator / service provider. This will also be based on the information gathered from the RFI and our design.

We have initiated the 'make-ready' process with the local utility and phone company.

A November Gazette.Net article [requires login] on the project described some temporary setbacks due to Hurricane Sandy and an October storm that came through the area. In order to keep the project momentum going, the committee is  gathering the pieces needed now and in the future. Early prep work will make launching the network that much easier. From the article:

Leverett homeowners already received an easement request in...

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Posted September 28, 2012 by Lisa Gonzalez

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...

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Posted August 15, 2012 by Christopher Mitchell

Wired West, an initiative in rural western Massachusetts to build a modern network in a broadband desert, has launched a pre-subscription campaign to demonstrate local demand for broadband service and support for the project. The online form is available here.

The official WiredWest Communications Cooperative Corporation is just now celebrating its first anniversary, noting that 37 towns have officially joined it.

Back in June, we talked with Linda Kramer, who explained how Sibley County in rural Minnesota used a pre-subscription campaign to document the massive local support for their initiative. Google is using a similar strategy in Kansas City to identify which neighborhoods are most interested in services.

Wired West also recently issued an RFP for network design:

WiredWest has issued a Request for Proposal for high level network design and cost estimates for the WiredWest fiber-to-the-premise network. The results will be used as the basis for WiredWest’s pro-forma and financing. “The work generated by this RFP will provide critical information to take the project to the next step,” said Monica Webb, Chair of WiredWest, “which is imperative, as the digital divide afflicting our region continues to hinder our economic development, educational opportunities and quality of life.”

And that RFP has been issued to Matrix Design Group:

After extensive review and due diligence, Wired West chose the Matrix Design Group of East Hanover, NJ, to complete the contract. They have designed and built fiber networks extensively in the Northeast, including Massachusetts, completing projects for private and public sector interests, in urban, suburban and rural areas. The work by Matrix is scheduled to be completed in early October, and will be used in WiredWest’s business plan and for financing.

Several volunteers have put a tremendous amount of effort into this initiative, recognizing that if they don't act, no one will. This is an inspiring project.

Posted June 26, 2012 by Christopher Mitchell

In our second podcast, we have interviewed Monica Webb with the Wired West Initiative in rural western Massachusetts. Like our first podcast, this should be an excellent resource for those who are still in the early stages of community broadband and seeking ideas or inspiration.

We continue to be interested in your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is fifteen minutes long and can be played below on this page or you can subscribe via iTunes or via a different tool using this feed. You can download the Mp3 file directly from here.

Read the transcript of this episode here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Fit and the Conniptions for the music.

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