I get calls every week about this. It’s long overdue. Sadly, the private sector, the Comcasts, the Verizons, won’t help us. But that’s fine. We’ll get this done.
– State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli
Princeton is a member community of Wired West, a partnership of 44 Massachusetts town designed to bring high-speed broadband to their respective communities. Here’s a recent update from the Berkshire Eagle on Wired West efforts to receive state funding:
A group representing residents is fanning out across rural Western Massachusetts to begin the final leg in efforts to bring high-speed Internet to unserved and underserved communities. Wired West, a partnership composed of 44 member communities, met recently to hammer out a more coordinated strategy, according to Monica Webb, of Monterey, chairwoman of the group. These communities hail from Berkshire, Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin and Worcester counties.
At a meeting at the Statehouse, hosted by state Sen. Stan C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, legislators met with representatives from the Franklin County Council of Governments (FRCOG), the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative (MBI) and WiredWest to discuss the next phase of the project. The discussion, according to Webb, yielded a comprehensive plan, cost estimates and timetable for connecting residential customers in each town. The plan will begin with regional meetings to share information and data with residents and local officials, while feedback is gathered and options are evaluated. Webb explained that the three entities have agreed to convene in working groups on a weekly schedule to accelerate planning and deployment.”This will put us on track to meet with town selectboards this fall to provide updates and relay more details on town financial participation,” she said.
The Princeton Broadband Committee kept on pace with several objectives during the summer months, meeting regularly to assure its aggressive agenda moves forward on several fronts. Here’s a brief update:
In June the committee voted to forward an amended version of the Memo of Understanding with Matrix/Millennium to the newly formed Princeton Broadband MLP whose members are now responsible for approving the contract. The MLP was successful in obtaining legal counsel to review specifics of the contract on behalf of the town of Princeton. As a result, the agreement was deemed satisfactory by our attorney who also reported to us that we are not required by law to solicit bids from other installers/contractors for the project. Building the actual network infrastructure as proposed would be done with private versus public funding. Use of public funding would have required the public bidding process and potentially added many months to the decision-making timetable. Note, Princeton Broadband MLP has taken no action on the Matrix/Millennium proposal to date – there are additional legal considerations being addressed.
Possible State Funding
The committee regularly monitored progress of a major technology bill (H.3770), which has passed legislative hurdles in August and was signed by Gov. Duvall Patrick. A portion of the bill allocates $45 million to Massachusetts Broadband Institute to cover “last mile” expenses to assist the state’s “unserved” communities, which includes Princeton. The committee is actively participating in lobbying activities currently underway to determine how those funds will be fairly distributed. In fact, we have recently began a strategy to better engage our elected officials in Boston and are pleased with the strong levels of support initially received from those who represent us in the State House.
Wired West Membership
We moved forward our application process with Wired West, which was officially approved and accepted at their September meeting. Membership with Wired West is a significant boost in our efforts to secure our share of funding when the MBI monies are distributed this fall.
ISP Pricing Models
The committee spent time exploring ISP pricing structures and continues work in that regard to assure that residents get the best value at the best service. As a source of comparison, the town of Leverett, MA (who is in the process of building their own network), recently released service and pricing information. You can view their pricing structure here.
Possible FCC Funding
We identified another source of potential financial assistance with the announcement of $100 million in grant money available from the FCC for their Experiments in Rural Broadband program. Our population density and lack of existing broadband make us eligible to apply for funds no greater than $750,000. An application is due in October.
* * * * *
The Fall months should bring us closer to our goal of bringing high-speed fiber optic Internet into Princeton homes. Several legal and regulatory hurdles are now behind us and news regarding state funding allocations is coming soon. We will continue to update you as we make more progress.