Windsor Waiting with Baited Breath for Fiber

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.

Underestimated make-ready costs inflated the estimate of the project and weather conditions have delayed some of Verizon's make-ready deadlines, but the project is not significantly delayed, says McNally.

Community Coming Together in Anticipation

On January 11th, town leaders hosted an event to update Windsor residents and provide an opportunity to sign up for service. McNally told us that turnout for the meeting was positive:

The event was a success with over 100 residents in attendance (for a town with only 500 homes). Just under 100 homes were signed up on the spot and many more have signed up since.  We expect that 75-80 percent of homes will be connected during the initial build cycle.  Most homeowners currently have satellite or DSL that runs between .8 Mbps and 2 Mbps. Most are signing up for [gigabit] service for only $75 a month.

People interested in signing up can continue to do so online.

Rates in Windsor will include two options; both provide symmetrical connectivity:

  • 25 Mbps for $59 per month
  • 1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit) for $75 per month

Phone service will also be offered for $19.99 per month.

Improving the Real Estate Market

McNally also points out that the project has improved the real estate market in Windsor. He says that in the past, residents had difficulty selling their properties "because buyers did not want to purchase a home without broadband." That situation has changed and many of those same properties have now sold.

Community leaders expect to start lighting up the network and providing Internet access as early as April.