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Content tagged with "massachusetts"
New England residents have been complaining about Verizon’s lack of meaningful fiber upgrades for the better part of the last two decades, prompting a steady parade of interest in community owned and operated fiber networks in states like Massachusetts.
But some of these community broadband efforts, such as West Springfield’s plan to deliver affordable fiber access to every city resident, are still being hampered by Verizon.
In 2021 the city (est. pop. 28,000) announced it would be partnering with Westfield Gas and Electric, the publicly owned utility in Westfield, Massachusetts, which has built and operates fiber networks in nearly two dozen communities in the Berkshires. The end result: Westfield Gas and Electric's broadband subsidiary Whip City Fiber plans to deliver West Springfield residents symmetrical gigabit fiber for $75 a month, without long term contracts or onerous hidden fees.
But efforts to launch a $1.8 million pilot project have been on hold thanks to ongoing delays by Verizon and Eversource to prepare local utility poles for fiber attachment, West Springfield Chief Technology Officer Stephanie Straitiff tells local news outlet The Reminder.
As a young woman of the Nuxalk Nation, Mallory Hans is “clearing a path for future generations.”
A 2022 graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology, she’s one of about 50 people hailing from various Tribes and First Nations across North America in attendance for the latest Tribal Broadband Bootcamp, a three-day intensive learning experience focused on building and running Tribal Internet networks.
Held in different tribal regions several times a year since the initiative began in 2021, this bootcamp (the eighth in an ongoing series of hands-on seminars) is being hosted at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort on the Saint Regis Mohawk reservation along the New York/Canada border.
“So far so good,” Mallory said on Day Two of the bootcamp just as the attendees broke into small groups to go through a variety of demonstration stations set up by bootcamp instructors and Tribal employees who run Mohawk Networks, which provides fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) Internet, video, and voice services across the reservation in northern New York.
In continuing the driving impulse to demystify technologies and build capacity among cohorts in Tribal nations, Day Two was centered around fiber stations that included demonstrations of how network operation centers are run; one on fiber splicing; another showcasing equipment used to install fiber inside of households with representatives from Calix, and another station on the electronic equipment that measures the performance of fiber lines.
“I’m enjoying it, feeling more confident and finding out I’m capable,” said the 22 year-old, newly minted fiber technician.
Wolves in Sheep's Clothing, Trojan Horse Networks, and Flowering BUDs - Episode 561 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Associate Director for Communications Sean Gonsalves to check in on the move towards a citywide open access fiber-to-the-home (ftth) network in Bountiful, Utah, an expanding institutional network in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and widespread support among small Maine towns that public dollars should go to publicly owned networks.
Along the way, they chat about the astroturf misinformation campaign being run by the Utah Taxpayer's Association, how a city negotiated a capital fee it's using to build its own network and get out from under Comcast's thumb, and the growing momentum behind Maine's Broadband Utility Districts (BUD) and their quest to improve competition and Internet access for residents.
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Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, digital equity advocates and city leaders have been debating the idea of building a citywide municipal fiber network for years now, mostly over whether the estimated $150 to $200 million it would cost to build the network would be worth it.
In a tech-savvy city, home to Harvard and MIT, the former city manager was resistant to a serious inquiry into municipal broadband. He retired last summer. But before he left, he relented on the broadband question – under pressure from city councilors and a local citizen group advocating for municipal broadband, Upgrade Cambridge.
With many residents weary of being held hostage to the whims and high cost of service from the monopoly provider in town (Comcast), which currently controls 80 percent of the city’s market, in 2021 the city hired the well-regarded Maryland-based consulting firm CTC Technology & Energy to conduct a thorough feasibility study. Now, with a new supportive city manager in office, city leaders have agreed to continue to investigate the options laid out in the recently published study.
‘Significant Public Support’ Even If It Requires Tax Money
Quincy, Massachusetts is moving full speed ahead on a long-percolating plan to bring faster and more reliable broadband to a community long neglected by regional telecom monopolies.
If successful, the resulting open access fiber network should dramatically boost competitive options in the city, driving down costs for what many view as an essential utility.
After five years of debate and planning, Quincy officials say they’re getting closer to launching a city owned open access fiber network that will provide a backbone for city services, as well as a major infusion of long overdue broadband competition citywide.
Quincy Ward 3 Councilor Ian Cain told ISLR that the city is planning to launch trial deployments in Merrymount and Quincy Point during the next few months. The city has long worked with Entrypoint networks as a technical consultant and project financial planner, and city officials are expecting an engineering and feasibility study from Tilson within a matter of weeks.
RFP Coming Soon
“We're intending to bring the request for financing before the council before the end of session, which is at the end of June,” Cain said.
"We'll be putting out an RFP for the open access component of the project soon as well. We hope to fund the project through the city council before the summer, and then ideally we would start construction in the fall."
The initial pilot project will be funded by a general obligation bond. City leaders stated Merrymount and Quincy Point were selected both with an eye on socioeconomic diversity, and because the city was certain they’d see a relatively high adoption rate.
"Quincy Point in particular has a lot of economic and cultural diversity, and I think that's really important to emphasize as we move forward," Ward 2 City Councilor Anthony Andronico said of the city’s effort. "Quincy Point and Merrymount will have an opportunity to see what works with this program, what we can improve upon and help expand it to the whole city.”
Representing 26 towns across Massachusetts, from Cape Cod to Chelsea, an informal group of mostly town officials have formed the Massachusetts Broadband Coalition in search of a way out of a broken broadband market to ensure everyone in their individual communities has access to high-speed Internet.
The newly-formed coalition has recently started to meet monthly to share information about what kind of alternatives there might be, or could be, to the big cable monopoly provider in their towns.
Questioning Monopoly Rules Without Reinventing the Wheel
The coalition, which held its first meeting in January, was convened by Robert Espindola, Fairhaven Selectmen and the board’s liaison to the town’s broadband study committee. And though the coalition is “in its infant stages,” as Espindola recently shared with ILSR, one common theme has emerged from each participating member.
“No doubt the common theme is: there’s no competition,” he said. “That’s how it started in Fairhaven for us. When we were negotiating our (franchise) agreement with Comcast, people in the community were asking: ‘why can’t we get competition?’”
When we first came together it was really more just to learn from each other, what each community was doing. And we wanted to see if we could find ways to work more efficiently and not reinvent the wheel.
Indeed, communities across the nation have set out to tackle local connectivity challenges head-on with a community broadband approach without having to reinvent the wheel. Some have built, or are building locally-controlled, publicly-owned open-access fiber networks to create the conditions for competition. Other cities and towns are building, maintaining, and operating their own successful municipal broadband networks. While still others have opted to enter into a public-private partnership with an independent ISP to build out a community-wide network.
Public-Private Partnerships Come into Focus
The U.S. Treasury Department announced this week the latest cohort of states approved to receive money for broadband infrastructure from the American Rescue Plan’s $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund: Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“Together, these states will use their funding to connect more than 91,000 homes and businesses to affordable, high-speed Internet,” according to the Treasury’s press release.
Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia, and West Virginia were the first states approved to receive CPF funds in June; followed by Kansas, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota in July; and Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Arkansas in August.
The latest tranche of CPF funds totals a little over $435 Million with Massachusetts approved for $145 million to fund new broadband infrastructure; $250.6 million for Michigan; and $40 million for Wisconsin.
A virtual press event was held on Thursday announcing the awards, led by Gene Sperling, Senior Advisor to the President and American Rescue Plan Coordinator; Jacob Leibenluft, U.S. Treasury Chief Recovery Officer; U.S. Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan; and Chairwoman of Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission Rebecca Cameron Valcq.
In Massachusetts, the funds will be used for the Commonwealth’s Broadband Infrastructure Gap Networks Grant Program. The state estimates that will be enough to connect 16,000 households and businesses, which represents 27 percent of locations in the state that lack high-speed Internet access.
Sen. Markey spoke to the importance of high-speed Internet connectivity and how it touches nearly every aspect of day-to-day life:
After years of discussing the possibility of building a city-wide municipal broadband network in the face of resistance from the city manager, the city of Cambridge, Boston’s next-door neighbor, is now getting serious about moving forward.
Followed by a budget stand-off in the spring of 2020 with City Councilors that brought the issue to a head, City Manager Louis DePasquale finally relented to the possibility being pushed by Upgrade Cambridge, a citizen-led group organized in 2018 to advocate for municipal broadband.
In October, the city that is home to MIT and Harvard University hired the consulting firm CTC Technology & Energy to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the digital landscape and present various business models Cambridge could pursue to bring its residents ubiquitous, reliable, and affordable high-speed Internet service as an alternative to the monopoly offerings of Comcast and Verizon DSL.
While Upgrade Cambridge founding member Roy Russell acknowledged DePasquale’s initial reluctance, he credits the soon-to-be-retiring city manager for coming around to the idea.
“With the pandemic and the money the federal government has supplied (for expanding access to broadband), he (DePasquale) has really stepped up,” Russell said when we spoke with him last week.
Comprehensive Assessment Underway
As communities across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are at various planning stages in laying the groundwork to build their own municipal broadband networks, a rural Bay State town about 50 miles west of Boston has moved past the planning phase and is now offering municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service.
In Sterling (est. pop. 8,000) – the town that lays claim to Mary Sawyer Tyler, said to have inspired the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” poem – the town’s municipal utility is building out its aptly named Local Area Municipal Broadband (LAMB) network.
The project was initiated more than five years ago as a new division within the century-old Sterling Municipal Light Department (SMLD). As one of about 40 of the state’s 351 towns and cities with its own municipal electric utility, SMLD was awarded a $150,000 state grant to help finance the construction of a 23-mile regional I-Net ring in 2020. A year later, LAMB lit up its first residential customer in April of 2021.
Following an incremental approach, earlier this year, the LAMB added its 50th subscriber as construction crews are on track to build out a town-wide fiber network by the end of 2024.
Connecting with Nearby Towns
Like other communities across the nation with an established municipal utility, from a design and engineering standpoint, it was a relatively easy leap into broadband for SMLD, which currently supplies electricity to more than 3,700 residential, commercial and municipal customers.
It’s official. Falmouth, Massachusetts has established a legal framework, a telecommunications utility, that is a key milestone in a local effort to bring fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) Internet service to this seaside community of approximately 32,000 famous for being home to a world-class marine science community as well as a popular summer vacation destination.
In the fall, Town Meeting voters voted 175-13 for the creation of the utility called a Municipal Light Plant (MLP). The law, however, requires two separate ‘yes’ votes with a 2/3 majority within a 13-month period. That second vote came earlier this month, when Town Meeting voters said “yes” to establishing an MLP by a vote of 159 to 25, well in excess of the 2/3 majority that was needed.
It allows Falmouth to move to the next step – figuring out the financing – which would allow Falmouth to join the growing ranks of communities in the Bay State (and be the first of 15 Cape Cod towns) to have undertaken municipal broadband projects over the last several years.
Voters Reject Opposition Arguments
Though a small group of municipal broadband critics strenuously argued in opposition to the formation of an MLP by raising a number of thoroughly debunked claims about locally-owned networks, ultimately Town Meeting voters were more persuaded by the experiences of resident’s such as Marilois Snowman who owns a digital marketing agency in town.