WGBH asks if municipal broadband is an answer to Worcester's Internet challenges. Looks at two other Massachusetts networks, Chicopee and Shrewsbury, that have different muni broadband approaches.
Tag: "chicopee ma"
Chicopee, Massachusetts, Ward 1 City Councilor Joel McAuliffe wrote an editorial recently that is well worth reading. In it, he explains how his city of 55,000 people, situated a few miles north of Springfield, has seen in concrete terms the benefits of building a municipal fiber network a year ago. Crossroads Fiber — an initiative of Chicopee Electric Light (founded 1896) — began connecting customers in late summer of last year, with the utility building out in phases. There are plans to provide service to everyone connected to electric. Even so, he says, citizens are already benefitting from municipal fiber during the current pandemic:
Fiber optic cables continue working during power outages and remain lightning-fast no matter how many users are plugged in. These past few months, internet usage has spiked worldwide, but municipal broadband is allowing hundreds of people in Chicopee to stay connected without interruption.
McAuliffe emphasizes the centrality of fiber to towns and cities in all realms who are looking to the future. And while it’s been nice to see large telecoms stepping in to donate or help communities get connected, McAuliffe rightly emphasizes the dangers of relying on corporate generosity instead of investing in local infrastructure that will benefit the community for generations to come:
Chicopee’s investment in municipal broadband is the first step, but we and cities across the country must commit to further investment to build a more prosperous and equitable society. It is becoming clear why a fast, reliable internet connection is absolutely essential for today and for our future.
We’ve covered Chicopee and Crossroads Fiber a couple of times before, and Christopher spoke with City Councilor McAuliffe on...Read more
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.
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.”
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 to 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...Read more
Chicopee, Massachusetts, is on its way to better connectivity through a publicly owned network after all. Chicopee Electric Light (CEL) has announced that the municipal utility plans to develop a pilot program yet this year to experiment with business connectivity. If all goes well, they have a long-term vision to also serve residents.
Remember That Resolution You Introduced?
Last week, we reported that at a recent meeting, City Councilor Joel McAuliffe had presented a resolution seeking support for a municipal network. Rather than pass it, however, the council referred the resolution on to the Utilities Committee for further review. McAuliffe created an online petition to show his colleagues on the council that their constituents supported a publicly owned network.
According to local outlet The Reminder, as the issue of municipal connectivity became a hot topic, CEL decided it was time to release news of their plan to launch a pilot project.
CEL General Manager Jeff Cady said, “We’re a municipal utility and operate in the best interest of our stakeholders, the rate payers. We’re going to operate our Internet service in the same way. We’re going to start slowly, providing service to a handful of businesses to iron out any issues.”
Cady went on to tell The Reminder that, even though the feasibility study was a few years old, the data was still valid and CEL are close to finalizing their plans.
CEL has already decided on a name for the service: Crossroads Fiber. The network will be deployed in phases, with businesses closest to existing fiber assets scheduled to be the first for connection. Approximately 70 percent of businesses in Chicopee are already near the community’s existing fiber and some are already receiving service through an agreement between CEL and Holyoke Gas & Electric. Once the initial pilot project is completed and CEL has had a chance to discover and resolve any issues, they anticipate expanding the pilot area in 2019.
Residents Won't Have to Wait Too Long
Cady said that CEL envisions a similar pilot project for Crossroads Fiber residential Internet access in the summer of 2019. The service...Read more
Sometimes city councils don’t quite have their fingers on the pulse of their constituents. It can be difficult to know what everyone wants, so there are instances when taking a direct approach it the best way to share our thoughts. In Chicopee, Massachusetts, City Councilor Joel McAuliffe is giving constituents from across the city a chance to express their support for municipal broadband with an online petition…and people are responding.
More Wait and See
McAuliffe took the unorthodox approach after his colleagues on the governing body voted not to support his resolution to move forward on municipal broadband for Chicopee. Instead, they decided to refer the resolution to the Utilities Committee for further review. He decided to create the petition, he said, because other councilors stated that they have not heard from their constituents about the issue.
Members of the council didn’t react favorably to the resolution, several wondering what consequences would await them and the city if they committed themselves if they passed it. Others stated that they weren’t against municipal broadband, but wanted more information before moving ahead, especially related to cost, funding, and whether or not the city could afford the investment.
In 2015, the city hired consultants to complete a feasibility study. The results concluded that the city would benefit from a publicly owned fiber optic network for several reasons. In addition to the fact that many in the community now obtain Internet access via Verizon DSL or Charter Spectrum, the survey shows that households in Chicopee tend to use more than the national average number of Internet- connected devices. As the community moves forward, consultants warned, stress on the already overtaxed copper infrastructure will only increase.
Chicopee owns an operates a municipal electric utility, which gives the town an advantage should they decide to also invest in Internet access infrastructure. Consultants estimate the cost of citywide deployment will reach between $30 and $35 million, but McAuliffe believes the community...Read more
A few weeks back, we noted an excellent new report on Holyoke Municipal Light Plant in Massachusetts published by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. This week, we discuss the report and lessons learned from it with David Talbot, Fellow at the Berkman Center. David gives us some of the key takeaways from the report and we discuss what other municipal light plants are doing, including how Holyoke Gas & Electric is using the state owned middle mile network to partner with other municipalities like Greenfield and Leverett. Finally, David offers some insight into how the municipal light plants that have not yet engaged in expanding Internet access think about the challenges of doing so. You can listen to (or read the transcript of) episode 65, where we interviewed Tim Haas of Holyoke Gas & Electric. Read the transcript from this episode here. We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. This show is 20 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here. Thanks to bkfm-b-side for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Raise Your Hands."
A few weeks ago, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society released a report that documents the achievements of Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E) Telecom, a municipal electric utility that now provides fiber-optic broadband Internet to local businesses in several western Massachusetts towns. The utility’s move into fiber-optics has led to municipal savings for the City of Holyoke, as well as increased high-speed access in neighboring cities, and driven economic development. We interviewed Holyoke's Senior Network Engineer, Tim Haas, in a previous episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.
Because the state of Massachusetts has no barriers that prevent the creation of municipal Internet networks, HG&E has been able to compete on a level playing field with incumbent ISPs Comcast and Charter. HG&E is among 12 MLPs (Municipal Light Plants) out of 41 in the state to offer fiber Internet services. Researchers at the Berkman Center believe that MLPs could play a large role in expanding Internet access and business opportunities throughout the state as electricity revenues experience diminishing returns and data needs grow. For example, HG&E’s fiber connection was a factor in the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center’s decision to open a $90 million data center in Holyoke.
HG&E is a somewhat unique municipal network in that it offers services not only in Holyoke, but also in nearby Chicopee. It also assists Leverett and Greenfield with their own networks. In Chicopee, the utility provided fiber access in a collaboration with 35 local businesses. In Leverett, it is managing the municipal network, with services provided by a local private company. As for Greenfield, HG&E now serves as the ISP for City Hall and the city’s police station, both of which will function as Internet access nodes as the town looks to create a fiber and wireless network that extends into homes and businesses.
Unlike in North Carolina and Tennessee, where public interest groups had to petition the FCC to strike down a law preventing cities from extending fiber into...Read more