Efforts to bring high-speed Internet to Princeton draws interests of area cable providers
Reprinted from Worcester Telegram:
The [Princeton] Board of Selectmen has appointed the Princeton Broadband Committee as a newly formed Cable Advisory Committee in light of developments in the town’s ongoing efforts to get broadband. The town approached several major broadband providers — Charter, Comcast and Verizon — in January to gauge interest in providing high-speed Internet to the town. Because of the conditions and size of the town, the companies came back with a quick and resounding “no,” according to officials.
The committee discovered a business option through Charter and re-opened the conversation with all of the major providers. These discussions included the potential of cable television access and, this time, the answer was a less determined “maybe,” officials said.
Under federal and Massachusetts law, the Princeton Board of Selectmen would be the issuing authority of a cable television license.
“If we choose to initiate the process, we will issue an invitation to reply,” said Selectman Stan Moss. “The key thing is what areas of town they will cover and what is their time frame.”
In this initial message, the town would tell cable providers exactly what it is they are looking for in coverage and speed. They can respond with what they can cover, or if they are willing to provide coverage at all.
“There’s only one thing to do, and that’s start the process,” said Mr. Moss.
Past survey results have shown a high demand for the service, but it will fall on the cable companies as to whether they are willing to come to the town for the first time in 25 years.
The newly formed Cable Advisory Committee said they will get the ball rolling over the next month or so, as town administrator John Lebeaux seeks experienced counsel to help with the matter.
“This is when you get on the roller-coaster and you can’t get off until you finish the ride,” said Mr. Lebeaux.
Utility pole upgrades may signal possible alternative to high-speed Internet access and bundled services
The Princeton Broadband Committee has begun discussions with the region’s leading cable providers regarding the possibility of bring high-speed Internet, telephone and television service to residential homes and businesses. The committee is taking this action as a matter of due diligence to explore all possible alternatives for Princeton. Both Charter Communications and Comcast have expressed interest in meeting with the committee regarding installing their own communication systems and offering bundled services that residents can choose to purchase.
The committee invited Thomas Cohan, director of government relations at Charter Communications in Worcester to its Oct. 23 meeting. Cohan explained that Princeton has not been considered a good option for cable installation due to significant issues related to its aging utility poles. The company’s first decision to bypass Princeton was in 1992 but Cohan did state that much has changed since then.
A positive aftermath of the 2008 ice storm has been PMLD’s aggressive replacement of many of the town’s utility poles that were damaged beyond repair. At the committee’s request, a Comcast construction crew recently revisited Princeton and now believes there is a potential for a cable installation project.
Cohan explained that if Princeton decides to issue a request for proposals, Charter could be interested particularly because the company currently provides its services in neighboring Holden and Hubbardston.
According to Charter’s rate schedule posted on its website, their standard 30 megabyte speed Internet is $50-$60 a month. When combined with telephone and cable television, residents can expect to pay about $90 per month for the bundled “triple play” services.
An obstacle for Charter should they come to Princeton is their installation standard of requiring a density of 25 houses per road mile. Using this guideline, a Charter cable installation here could mean that only the denser roads would be served. Cohan explained that there some homes in both Holden and Hubbardston not currently included in their service due to their remoteness.
Selecting a cable company is a decision usually made by the town’s board of selectmen with input from the public. The town would then have to issue a cable franchise authorizing the company to build a system and offer services it to residents. Cohan mentioned that because of Charter’s commitment to an aggressive upgrading schedule, it could not take on an installation project in Princeton until 2015.
Members of the committee have also contacted Verizon, which declined the invitation to participate in further discussions. Comcast, which currently provides services in Sterling, has expressed an interest in the project and plans on sending a representation to a broadband committee meeting in the near future.
The committee also remains focused on the plan to bring high-speed fiber optic Internet to the premises with municipally supported funding. Network design is expected soon, which will allow the committee to seek vendor input on network construction, network maintenance, and Internet Service Providers to determine those costs.
Stay tuned! We will keep you informed of our discussions with Comcast and Charter on this website as they occur.
“High-speed Internet access plays the same role in American life [as electricity]. It’s just that these guys have succeeded in making us think that it’s a luxury…Truly high-speed wired Internet access is as basic to innovation, economic growth, social communication, and the country’s competitiveness as electricity was a century ago, but a limited number of Americans have access to it, many can’t afford it, and the country has handed control of it over to Comcast and a few other companies.”
– Susan Crawford