“Leverett may be the Internet equivalent of baseball’s Field of Dreams—build it, and they will come.”
A report entitled Bringing High-Speed Internet Access to Leverett, Massachusetts was released Dec. 17 by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a Harvard University research center dedicated to exploring and understanding cyberspace. Authored by Beckman’s co-director Susan P. Crawford and Robyn Mohr, a research assistant at Yeshiva University’s prestigious Benjamin Cordozo School of Law, the report provides a detailed account of the development of Leverett, Massachusetts’ municipal fiber optic network. It includes information about the extensive planning and outreach activities carried out by Leverett from 2011 through 2013, as well as details of the technical and operational characteristics. As many of you know, Leverett officials responsible for building the network have been extremely supportive and helpful to our efforts to bring a similar high-speed, affordable fiber optic network to Princeton residents.
The authors cover many scenarios familiar to Princeton residents, including a declining real estate market due in part to a lack of Internet access. Just a few miles away down Route 202 from Leverett are the bustling academic communities of Amherst and Northampton, but some Leverett citizens report having trouble even renting their homes to students and academics due to a lack of Internet connectivity.
The study looks at the town’s understanding that although its proposed municipally-owned broadband network would require raising taxes to fund the project, the network would in fact increase local property values, enhance educational opportunities, make local businesses more competitive, and improve access to telemedicine and new public safety programs. Using what the Broadband Committee considered “fairly conservative projections,” it estimated that the monthly retail cost of service, including Internet access and phone service, state and local taxes, access fees, network operation fees, and maintenance fees, would be significantly lower than current rates.
The authors conclude, “once high-speed Internet access finally reaches every household and business in Leverett, everyone will likely wonder how they lived so long without it. The police and fire departments will be able to do their jobs more effectively. Families that once fled from the area because of the lack of Internet connectivity will take a second look at settling down in the town they grew up in. Businesses will be enabled to better sell their products online. Students will no longer need to flock to the local library to finish their homework. College students may even begin to move into the area and rent rooms in buildings that were once considered “unlivable” because of the lack of reliable Internet access. Leverett may be the Internet equivalent of baseball’s Field of Dreams—build it, and they will come.”
Click here to view a PDF of the report.