Special town meeting seeks $1.4 million for high-speed Internet work

From The Landmark:

Selectmen voted Monday to schedule a Nov. 18 special town meeting to ask whether voters support spending $1.4 million for make ready work for the construction of a high-speed Internet network in town.

Selectmen also agreed to set Dec. 9 for a special ballot election debt exclusion vote for the borrowing and authorized Town Administrator John Lebeaux to prepare the warrant for the meeting.

The board also signed a memorandum of agreement with Matrix Design Group, Inc. to negotiate an agreement between the town and the Municipal Light Plant Board of Directors for the design, financing, construction, maintenance and operation of a fiber to the home network within Princeton.

Read full article at thelandmark.com »

 

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15 comments

  1. Rick McCowan

    If I am going to be asked to spend $1.4M than I would like to know what the other options are, their cost, pros and cons and why the option was not selected.

    • richwagner

      Thanks for your feedback Rick. Be sure to come to one of the two Information meetings in November prior to the Special Town Meeting. We will be diving into all of the details and specifics and be able to answer your questions.

  2. Christine Rainville

    What happened to Charter negotiations? The town of Princeton is being asked to front 1.4M in which the town will take out a loan and the town will need to pay back, correct? I’d like to see how our taxes will be effect by this, and instead of verbally at the meetings, it would be best to see this in writing, prior than the November meetings. Then in addition each household choosing to participate in broadband service would need to pay $200 plus monthly fees of about $70/month, correct? I currently have Verizon internet and could presumably have an ATT hotspot via my cellular plan, so I’m not clear on why I should have an additional internet service provider?

    • richwagner

      Responding to your comment…First, Charter formally decided not to pursue cable operations in Princeton, so that is not an option. Second, concerning tax implications, we will definitely have that info made readily available — both at the Nov information meetings as well as on princetonbroadband.com. Third, we will have the expected subscriber monthly costs info as well. Then, you will be able to look at the cost of your current DSL account and its bandwidth capabilities and compare it to the Matrix plan – subscription cost and bandwidth capabilities — and make a decision that suits your needs. Note on your AT&T hotspot, anytime you are talking about cellular, you are dealing with data usage caps. So, Netflix and related services like that are not an affordable/viable option when you have to keep monthly bandwidth between 10-30GB.

  3. Christine Rainville

    My biggest concern is the tax implication on borrowing 1.4M to afford this project while our town stares at other expenses and items that the town could use… i.e. we still have a volunteer EMT/Fire squad, a duct tape floor at Thomas Prince School, a library without a librarian at Thomas Prince School.. to name a few.

    • richwagner

      Chrsitine, definitely understand your concern. I think every taxpayer does, in fact. However, a couple things to mull over in considering the costs & benefits. First, last year, it seemed like the only way in which broadband internet could come to town would be to fund the entire network construction from taxes. That would amount to ~$5-6m, and probably topping $7m once you included the make-ready costs. However, in the proposed public/private plan, Matrix Design Group is paying the lionshare amount (that $5-6m figure) to build the network, and we are only responsible for the make-ready costs. So, while not ideal (free = ideal), the current plan is nonetheless much more advantageous to the taxpayer than we had even thought possible before. In fact, since we can’t get cable companies to come into town and Verizon is never going to bring FIOS here, this plan really is the most affordable option imaginable given business realities. Second, there is still a decent chance that some of that 1.4m will be paid for through state/federal funds. (You can read about that on this site.) While we can’t expect or count on that, the grant possibility is not something to be written off either. In that case, we would have the best of both worlds — state/federal funding for make-ready costs and private funding for network construction. Third, even if we don’t receive state/federal funding and will have to pay the 1.4m ourselves, statistics show that home values for towns with a fiber network/broadband rise to a level that would more than offset the relative impact that it would have on our tax bills. Anyway, thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this issue.

      • Ed Carlson

        Can you please share those home value statistics? They could be very compelling. Home appreciation does in Princeton doesn’t seem to vary based on access to DSL. Sales are slow all over town. Secondarily, how much will our home values be decreased by added taxes to finance this plan. I’d like to see both of these calculations please.

        My DSL service with Verizon is excellent. I have no problem watching Netflix (your example). I am alone with great DSL speeds?

        How many Princeton homes have access to DSL and how many do not?

        As you certainly are aware the town got stung by the company that installed our windmills. It went bankrupt and we had no warrantee. Is the matrix company posting a bond? Have you run Credit checks? Our electric rates are now highest in Massachusetts – collectively we in Princeton pay over a million dollars per year more than if we were paying state average rates. We can’t afford another mistake such as this. What have you done to protect us?

        Where else has Matrix installed town wide Internet? Have we visited with these municipalities and discussed their experiences? Have we checked references?

        Lastly: when our town wanted soccer fields I was able to raise $700,000 in donations from supporters via donations. The town only funded about $60,000. I thought it morally incorrect to tax everyone in town for an entertainment venue that would only be used by a potion of the populace. Is the “need” to watch Netflix movies and play video games at home different? Please explain this to me.

        Thanks for your help. i look forward to your responses!

      • richwagner

        Good questions. I will track down some additional information for you. However, I think you want to make sure attend the upcoming informational meetings in November as many of these issues will be covered. We will also have representatives from Matrix design group at the sessions to answer questions. However, in the meantime, I will track down some information and provide that shortly.

      • richwagner

        Ed, thanks again for your comments last week. I am glad that your DSL service meets your internet needs. Unfortunately, only about 20% of the town has DSL. What’s more, that DSL number will not rise as a viable solution for the majority of the town since DSL is really an end-of-life technology for Verizon (i.e., they are happy to keep taking checks from their current infrastructure for the foreseeable future, but they are not going to invest anymore in it).

        Concerning Matrix Design Group, I would recommend coming to the informational meetings. They will have representatives there to answer your questions. However, they have a long resume of installing networks and currently the ones doing the Leverett, MA build out.

        One of the most important things to keep in mind is that Matrix is taking on the majority of the risk in the proposed public/private venture. Of the $4.3m to do the buildout, they are putting up $3.1m, while the town is only responsible for $1.2m. That is a far better solution than us doing it ourselves and assuming all of the risk.

        Finally, I would say that the need for broadband goes far beyond “entertainment” for the majority of the town. In 2014, it is no exaggeration to say that broadband connection is almost as important to many people (for work, family activities, etc.) as an electrical connection is, and fast forward a decade and it will even be greater with tv and other core services coming “over the top” over the internet.

        Thanks again,
        Rich

  4. Christine Rainville

    I’m really interested in that question as well—- How many Princeton homes have access to DSL and how many do not?

  5. Christine Rainville

    Of the vast majority that do not have DSL– do they have access to the current pmld wireless service?

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