The New Salem Broadband Committee’s mission is to bring high speed future-proof fiber Internet access to New Salem in the most cost effective, equitable, minimum risk, high quality and expedient manner possible.
At the end of January the State received proposals from a number of businesses interested in providing Internet services for towns in western Massachusetts. Proposals from Charter Communications* and Crocker Communications included our town but they did not meet our requirements. Fortunately, a proposal from Westfield Gas and Electric Municipal Light Plant to design and build a fiber-to-the-home regional network which would be town-owned and operated under the management of WiredWest did meet all of our criteria.
Charter’s offer to New Salem is contingent upon acceptance by all other towns it proposed to serve which appears extremely unlikely at this point since at least one other town has already declined. Charter’s offer was not acceptable because:
- They do not plan to cover the entire town and we would not know which part(s) of town would not be built out until well into the project.
- Charter provide a fiber/coax Hybrid build (Cable) which is not the best available link to the Internet.
- No redundancy would be in the build. We would be on a one cable run from Orange to Shutesbury. If a storm/accident damages anywhere along that line there is no other route to switch over to while repairs are done.
- We would have to negotiate a Cable Licensing Agreement with Charter which would mean legal expenses and an additional delay in the build.
- Charter would own the network; we would have no control of costs or guarantee of network neutrality.
Crocker Communication’s offer was unacceptable because:
- Proposed town coverage was very low and not guaranteed.
- Subscribers would be required to take out personal loans to subsidize the construction of the network which Crocker would own.
In February, after reviewing all options, the Select Board sent three resolutions to Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) letting them know that:
- The Town of New Salem found the proposals from Charter Communications and Crocker Communications did not meet our town’s minimum requirements for broadband service,
- The Town of New Salem prefers to build a municipally owned ‘fiber to the premises’ broadband network and we support the WiredWest Regional Broadband Solution to manage and operate the Town network on a regional basis in conjunction with other towns that subscribe to services offered by WiredWest,
- The Town of New Salem is interested in working with Westfield Gas & Electric MLP (WG&E), with WiredWest, to provide Design and Engineering services and construction Project Management for our town-owned network.
The Select Board requested that MBI release the funds for this work as soon as possible.
At the end of February the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) announced that towns who wish to move forward on their own will get their full professional services allocation. This means that New Salem has access to its original portion of the State funding, a total of $750,000, to move the broadband project forward.
Thanks to all members of the Select Board and Broadband Committee who have worked so hard with our legislators, the governor’s office, the MBI, and town leadership across the state to bring about this positive change.
The New Salem Broadband Committee