WiredWest Project Overview
WiredWest’s original “Plan A” was to build and operate a regional fiber broadband network for member towns. Fiber is the best technology that can deliver fast, reliable broadband internet to all premises. Doing this regionally is the most efficient and cost effective approach, and would minimize the burden to individual towns. Experts, including MBI’s own technical staff, have all recommended a regional network. MBI initially endorsed this plan and made joint presentations with WiredWest starting in November 2014 asking towns to pass debt authorizations for roughly 2/3 of the cost. MBI would provide the remaining share and oversee planning and construction in consultation with WiredWest. Once Built, the network would be turned over to WiredWest to own and operate.
24 towns passed their spending authorizations. WiredWest ran a campaign to get 40% or more of residents to sign up with a $49 deposit years in advance of an anticipated network as a show of support. Most towns succeeded in achieving this. WiredWest worked on gathering data, planning a network, creating a financial model and business plan, and an organizational agreement to form an LLC with each town owning a proportional share of the regional network.
Unfortunately, in December of 2015 MBI changed course and advocated for each town to build and own it’s own network. They abruptly made public announcements that they would not fund WiredWest’s plan. Subsequent negotiations failed. In response to complaints from many towns, the Governor stepped in and re-organized the State’s effort. He appointed Peter Larkin as his special envoy and Bill Ennen as Town Liaison to get the project on track. The new regime is more flexible for towns, but it places a greater burden on towns and so far lacks a regional plan to make operational costs affordable. MBI is working directly with towns to plan, design and build networks that will be turned over to the towns. WiredWest has reached out to Peter Larkin and MBI to coordinate our efforts, but so far they have shown no interest.
WiredWest has adapted to the situation. WiredWest is no longer directly involved with construction of networks, but now has a long range Plan A2 to connect member towns’ networks into a regional network for efficient and cost-effective operation. We will be providing advice and guidance for towns in planning their networks to be compatible with eventual regional operation. We are currently in discussions with potential vendors about network operations, customer service, and other operational costs on a regional basis. We are working on a financial plan and business model and hope to have some estimates soon.