Princeton Wants Fiber: 90% Vote For Broadband

IMG_2151Nearly 500 hundred voters of Princeton packed Thomas Prince School tonight, leaving standing room only to discuss and vote whether to approve funds for “make ready” costs necessary for a broadband fiber network build. After 90 minutes of discussion and Q&A, the town of Princeton spoke loud and clear: Princeton wants fiber! The town voted 442-51 in favor — that’s 90% of all voters!

In case there was any question before about the pent-up demand for fiber in town, the numbers attending the special town meeting remove all doubt.  The 493 in attendance tonight was a record-breaking crowd for a special town meeting, breaking the previous record (360 attending the Library renovation meeting back ~15 years ago).

Our long-time quest for broadband has one final, but essential hurdle. We have one last vote to take - a ballot vote at Town Hall Annex on Dec. 9. We will provide full details on that in the coming days.

Princetonites, we have looked with longing eyes at our Wachusett neighbor’s broadband capabilities for years and wondered why we couldn’t have the same. As long as we all get out and vote on Dec. 9, all that is about to change!

You can also read The Landmark article on the vote here »

 

Getting Ready for Tonight’s Vote

Looking for information for the special town meeting vote (Nov. 18, 7pm at Thomas Prince School)? Use the following FAQ to quickly navigate content on our web site to get the answers you are looking for.

1. What is the Matrix Plan? And what are we voting on? 

Read a 5-minute summary of the Matrix plan and what the Tuesday vote is all about.

2. Why is this the best plan possible for the town of Princeton?

When you factor in the state of the telecom/cable industry and the unique demographics and geography of our town, each broadband committee member will say unequivocally that the Matrix private/public plan is the best plan possible for our community. Read why »

3. Who is Matrix Design Group? 

Matrix Design Group is the private company proposing to design, build, and operate our townwide fiber network. You can read case studies of other Matrix projects here »

4. What would be the subscriber costs? 

Matrix fiber-to-the-home service would provide fiber broadband and optional phone service. Read about the services and the subscriber cost breakdown here »

5. Why is DSL not a viable long-term option for us? 

When you look at industry trends, it is clear that DSL is eventually going to be phased out. It is not a question of “if”, but a question of “when”. Read why »

6. Why is fiber the best technology choice?    

You can read the following resources for more discussion on fiber:

 

The Best Plan Possible – Especially Considering the Alternative

If You Ever Want Broadband, You Must Vote on Tuesday

As you consider the merits of the upcoming vote at the Nov 18 special town meeting, there is one overarching and sweeping factor that we must all grapple with:

Princeton is the largest “unserved” community in the state of Massachusetts for broadband internet. [source]

That’s one of the least appealing labels you would want associated with your town if:

  • You are a homeowner and are counting on your property to increase in value.
  • You are a parent with school age children and want them to have broadband for school before they graduate.
  • You own a small business or you have a career that depends upon working from home with reliable, fast internet.

The Nov 18 vote will determine, once and for all, whether or not we as a community have the will and progressiveness to change that fact.

nov18So What Happens if the Nov 18 Vote Does Not Pass?

On this site, we have talked on the merits of the Matrix plan and the rationale for the request to borrow for the “make ready” costs. We have talked about why our community needs reliable broadband for working from home, school, entertainment – as well as pragmatically for home valuations.

But we have not said much about what happens if the Nov 18 vote does not pass by 2/3rds majority.

Simply put, the ramifications are sweeping, severe, and unforgiving:

First, Matrix’s offer to pay for the entire network construction (that’s 73% of the whole project cost) will be terminated. Matrix will move onto other unserved communities in Western Massachusetts and elsewhere.

Second, we will seriously damage our chances of getting a state grant to pay for the “make ready” costs. Princeton has a possible opportunity to get some/all of our “make ready” costs paid for through the recently passed IT Bond Bill. However, in our discussions with state officials, it is clear that “skin in the game” is a key determinant in the division of funds to the 26 unserved towns. A NO vote would show that we have no “skin in the game” at all and would put us in the back of the line.

Third, in the end, we will continue to be the largest “unserved” community in the state of Massachusetts for the indefinite future.

The Best Possible Plan for Our Unique Circumstances

Maybe there’s aspects of the Matrix plan that you would like to change. Maybe you think a better option will come down the pike if we just wait.

But we should all be very careful with basing our vote on quibbles with the plan or dreams of a knight in shining armor just around the corner. There are no Plan B’s. There are no other suitors waiting in the wings. Comcast, Charter, and Verizon have even gone so far as to formally decline an offer to come into town. And, doing it ourselves would cost taxpayers over three times more than the Matrix plan would.

The broadband committee has been working on a solution to present to the town for two years. We have wrestled with every conceivable broadband technology, engaged many vendors, and assessed every possible financial solution. When you factor in the state of the telecom/cable industry and the unique demographics and geography of our town, each committee member will say unequivocally that the Matrix private/public plan is the best plan possible for our community.

Compared to any imaginable alternative, the Matrix plan significantly reduces our tax burden, minimizes our town’s risk, maximizes services to the entire town (not just the most densely populated areas), and is future proofed for generations to come.

Let’s do this Princeton.

The DSL Phase Out: Not a Question of If, but When

Credit: Gigaom

Photo credit: Gigaom.com

Princeton residents within 18,000 feet of the town center can choose the option of a Verizon DSL connection to the internet. Because DSL has a maximum speed of 3 Mbps (compared to 50 Mbps and higher for fiber), it is not actually considered “broadband” by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. But, even with its built-in speed limitations, DSL can be an attractive option for town residents who (a) live close to the town center, (b) have modest internet needs, and (c) and want a basic service at the lowest possible price. As a result, if that description describes you, you may have a certain reticence or hesitation with doing anything beyond the status quo and investing in a town-wide fiber-to-the-home network.

However, since the upcoming Nov. 18 vote is all about a long-term broadband solution for our town’s future, it is critically important to consider the long-term future of DSL.

Simply put, when you look at industry trends, it is clear that DSL is eventually going to be phased out. It is not a question of “if”, but a question of “when”.

Gigaom.com states in their article “Why Verizon is killing DSL & cheap broadband”:

 The slow death of DSL will cause the rapid rise of expensive broadband for underserved areas if Verizon’s Fusion home broadband service is any indication. Verizon launched home-broadband powered by its wireless network — letting consumers trade unlimited slow broadband from a wire for faster, capped and more expensive service…Verizon may have started out as a collection of wireline telephone companies, but it has been rapidly abandoning its legacy copper by selling off its DSL businesses to Frontier Communications, Fairpoint and even the Carlyle Group. The plan, as we said back then, was to get rid of high-cost copper lines and come in later with wireless broadband that delivered better speeds. [Source]

Similarly, DSLReports.com states:

 Verizon has been making it very clear that they have no interest in those customers remaining on DSL. The company last year returned to forcing new DSL users to subscribe to costly landline service, and now users in our Verizon DSL forum say they’re being notified that yet another round of traditional rate hikes have arrived. [Source]

BusinessWeek also reports in the article “Hey DSL, It’s Time For Goodbye”:

 Today, AT&T essentially put the nail in the coffin for DSL technology when it announced it was going all-in on IP-based networks and IP technologies. As Stacey Higginbotham reported earlier this morning, Dallas-based AT&T is spending nearly $14 billion to completely switch from last century’s technologies and put its old, copper-based network out for pasture. [Source]

But it is not just industry pundits who are making gloom & doom predictions. In fact, the FCC and even Verizon itself have expressed publicly that the writing is on the wall for copper-based DSL.

The general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission predicts that DSL and landlines will stop working within the next ten years, “abandoned by companies like AT&T and Verizon in favor of wireless service in rural America or fiber (if you are lucky) in the cities.” [Source]

Verizon does say that they have no plans to shut down working service for customers. But, at the same time, Tom Maguire, Verizon’s senior vice president of operations support, is on the record as saying that Verizon has a “gradual phase-out” strategy [Source]. This is especially the case when existing cooper lines go down. As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Tom Maguire underscores Verizon’s unwillingness to invest in long-term maintenance: “If we fixed the copper, there’s a good likelihood people wouldn’t even use it.” [Source]

This strategy is already being carried out in some regions. The Verge reports in the article “Disaster, meet opportunity: Verizon’s plan to push wireless on copper landline customers”:

Last Friday, Verizon filed a proposal with New York state that would allow it to abandon traditional copper telephone lines in favor of wireless service in select areas. Companies like Verizon and AT&T have been trying to leave these old and costly copper networks behind them. [Source]

Therefore, as each Princeton resident considers the Matrix plan and the upcoming Nov. 18 vote, it is important to consider not just what internet solution works this month or this year, but what will effectively service our community in 2024 and beyond.