Notes From the Underserved

Bringing Broadband to Rural Massachusetts

Who is WiredWest?

Massachusetts laws allow towns to own and operate utility companies called Municipal Light Plants (MLPs). WiredWest is a Cooperative of town MLPs joining together for operational efficiencies and cost savings. The coop is governed by delegates from the member towns for the purpose of delivering high quality broadband service to all residents of member towns.

What service will be provided and how much will it cost?

Residential Rates:

  • Standard  – 1 Gig service (= 1000 Mbps)  – $75/mo.
  • Economy – 25 Mbps service  – $59/mo (compare to DSL typically 3 Mbps).
  • Full featured phone service including unlimited domestic long distance can be added on for $19.99/mo. (plus taxes and fees)

Note that combining Internet with phone service can replace your Verizon service. You can keep your current phone number. Your town may add a surcharge to the fees above for town network expenses.

Why is it taking so long to get Broadband service?

Before WiredWest can deliver service, towns must build fiber broadband networks. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) originally said it would pay 40% of the cost and build a regional broadband network to be owned and operated by WiredWest. Many of you signed up when that was the plan. Since then, the MBI now requires towns to individually own their networks. The state is now offering towns grants of their full share of state funds to build networks independently of the MBI, to be owned by the individual towns. Progress should be much quicker now.

Why should towns build and own their own network?

Our current lack of broadband shows that we are not profitable enough for private providers. The state is offering them grants to build networks that they would own and operate. Some towns have received offers. But allowing a single private company to own our primary means of communication is a very risky proposition for our small towns. Private companies are primarily responsible to their owners or shareholders, not to their customers, and could sell the network at any time. Without competition and with low profitability, there is no incentive for them  to devote the resources necessary to provide high quality service to all residents. In some cases, they are offering to initially cover only a portion of the town. Without further subsidies the remainder of the town will never get service. Unlike phone service, Internet is not regulated, so companies have no mandate to reach all residents and there are no quality or price controls.

If towns own their network, important decisions that affect cost, coverage, and net neutrality and privacy policies will be under local control, not dictated by multinational corporations. Most of our towns do not have the resources to manage a network. However, working together through our WiredWest Coop, we can offer:

  • A large pool of resources and skilled volunteers
  • Economy of scale and bargaining power for lower prices
  • Ability  to reduce risk and increase stability
  • Commitment to customers, not stockholders
  • Profit sharing
  • Commitment to net neutrality and your privacy

What are the next steps?

If you support WiredWest, encourage your town leaders to learn more about how regional operations can reduce risk, save you money, and manage operations of your town-owned network. There is information about the Regional Operation Plan in Regional Management Plan. Some specific advice for planning networks is in Advice for Towns. You’ll find useful downloadable documents as they become available in Recent Info. Towns interested in participating in the Regional Operation Plan should sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by December 15 if possible.

This story may be downloaded at: WiredWest One Page Public Description

Notes From the Underserved Archive

We can bring you broadband if we all pull together.

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Keeping Prices Low for Small Town Broadband Networks

As towns near completion of building our networks, we must consider how we’re going to manage operating them, and what to charge customers in order to meet expenses. Often the focus is on hiring an Internet Service Provider (ISP) with the lowest price. But the ISP cost turns out to be only a small part of the overall cost of operating a network, and ISPs vary as to what combination of services they provide. There are also infrastructure related costs such as: repair/maintenance, pole license fees, insurance, managing cash reserves to meet insurance deductibles, etc. Also, administrative costs such as hiring a manager to oversee operations, accounting, auditing, and legal services. Prices must be set to bring in enough revenue to cover all these costs, and all of the various pieces must be organized into a functioning whole. The number of customers and population density strongly affect the prices that must be charged.

It’s important to understand that WiredWest is not an ISP. Rather, it is a Coop of towns working together to manage our town-owned networks efficiently and cost-effectively, including hiring and overseeing an ISP for member towns. Sparsely populated towns would have to charge high prices to meet costs. The Coop allows us to spread the administrative costs and burden over a larger number of customers and keeps our prices as low as possible. Also, WiredWest is not a company looking to make a profit. It is governed by the member towns and any profits will be distributed back to the towns. By consolidating the administrative costs and burden of managing our networks, we are able to draw on a larger pool of expertise […]

Recent Updates

WiredWest Is Town’s Cheaper Operator For Broadband, Say Consultants

“WiredWest Is Town’s Cheaper Operator For Broadband, Say Consultants” By Katie Nolan Montague Reporter April 19, 2018 WENDELL - On Tuesday night, Jim Crowley of Holyoke Gas and Electric (HG&E) and Brian Richards of PineRidge Consulting presented a joint Wendell broadband committee and selectboard meeting with a comparison of costs for the town to operate a broadband network as an independent operator, or as a member of the WiredWest regional cooperative. The consultants considered administrative costs such as insurance, electrical power for the network electronic equipment, pole licensing, accounting, audits, legal fees, maintenance of the cables and other outdoor equipment, internet service provider (ISP) subscriber fees, and network backhaul (high bandwidth connection from the town’s electronic operation location to their wholesale ISP). The consultants’ report concluded that “Over time, as operator of a regional cooperative network, WiredWest could offer a better value to all members towns, as opposed to operating their network independently.” Because the consultants’ presentation and committee and citizen questions continued from 7pm until after 9pm, the joint meeting tabled all of its other agenda items, including item #9, “Possibility of revoting Town authorization of Broadband project,” until Tuesday, April 24 at 7pm. Approximately a dozen citizens attended the meeting, including Robbie Leppzer, author of an open letter to the selectboard affirming “strong support for building a municipally-owned broadband network in Wendell,” and other signers of this letter. Here is a link to download the full report (PDF - 1 MB): www.turningtide.com/…/Comparison_of_Broadband_Operational_M…

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WiredWest: our cooperative solution for broadband internet in western Massachusetts

Get the Answers

Q. When will we actually get broadband?

Q. Will subscribers have to keep their Verizon phone service to get WiredWest’s broadband service?

Q. Who controls the subscriber rates?

Q: How does MBI play into this?

Learn the answers & more!

Working together to build a state-of-the-art fiber-optic network to serve everyone and drive regional economic growth, create jobs, improve education and healthcare, and ensure a sustainable future for our communities.