Nearly 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 »
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.
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.
We had our first Info Session at the Town Annex tonight focusing on the Matrix plan and the upcoming Nov. 18 vote. Click here to download/view the Powerpoint presentation from the session. Or, if you want some background info, click here for a 5-minute easy-to-read summary.
Our friends at Support Princeton Broadband have printed lawn signs to help publicize the Nov. 18 Special Town Meeting. A two-thirds majority vote is required to approve borrowing funds necessary to complete a number of start-up projects. Interested in having one of their signs on your lawn? To participate in the signage program, contact Gloria Utzig or go to supportprincetonbroadband.org.
We have had a couple of questions on whether absentee ballots are permissible for the upcoming Special Town Meeting. Here is the official word from Town Administrator John Lebeaux:
Under Mass General Laws there is no provision for absentee voting at town meeting. Casting your vote at the November 18th Special Town Meeting requires you attend the town meeting.
Voters may vote via absentee ballot for the December 9th Debt Exclusion vote. Preferably, applications for absentee voting should be made to the Town Clerk after the Nov. 4 state election. Should there be need to apply prior to that date, please contact the Town Clerk directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 »
Ladies and gentlemen of Princeton. Start your engines.
An important milestone was reached tonight in the effort to bring high-speed broadband to Princeton. In tonight’s Princeton Broadband MLP meeting, the directors signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Matrix/Millennium for the purposes of negotiating an agreement between the MLP and Matrix Design Group for the design, financing, and construction of a fiber-to-the-home network within Princeton. While the MOU is not the final contract to do the network construction, it is a significant step towards that end. (To use a relationship analogy, Princeton entered the “dating stage” with Matrix.)
In this proposed “public/private” venture, Matrix is agreeing to fund the entire cost of building the fiber network throughout the town. But, for our part in this proposed partnership, Princeton would be responsible for ensuring that the town infrastructure is ready for Matrix to do the buildout. In order to do this, there are necessary “make ready” costs that the town needs to pay to get all of the utility poles in proper condition as well as fund other start up costs (police details, etc.).
That’s why, with the MOU signed, the Princeton Broadband MLP recommended to the town Select Board to hold a special town meeting on November 18 at 7pm (at Thomas Prince) for the purpose of voting to borrow funds for “make ready” costs. The Select Board unanimously approved this recommendation.
In order to borrow the funds for make ready, 66% of the voters must approve this proposal. If that vote passes, then broadband will come to our town. An agreement will then be negotiated with Matrix to make this plan a reality.
With all of this news, there are surely many questions that come to mind, such as:
- How much are the make ready costs?
- How long will it take for Matrix Design Group to build the network?
- When can I signup?
- How much would a monthly subscription cost?
- Do we have a chance to state funding to pay for some of the make ready costs?
That’s why we will be holding two informational meetings in November (specifics to follow) to provide complete details on the “private/public” plan with Matrix Design Group, make ready costs, subscriber plans, and more. On princetonbroadband.com, we will also provide all of the details you will need to make a fully informed decision on November 18.
So, start your broadband engines! Get ready to get informed and get involved. Most important, make sure you do your part in the coming weeks so that together we can, once and for all, bring high-speed broadband to our town.