Many of us in rural western Massachusetts have no access to broadband at all. Here we are in one of the most technologically advanced, economically diverse, and highly educated states in the country while a third of the state (those of us here in the west) is still stuck with dial-up. How can this be? With a sparse population, few large businesses and rough geography, the existing communication companies don’t see our area as a profitable investment.
Still, it is true that some residents do have access to high speed internet. Verizon expanded DSL to many of the town centers and a few towns have cable TV vendors that also offer internet access. Some towns are running their own wireless broadband networks. For those of us still left without internet access the availability of broadband in pockets throughout the region just makes it worse: any new broadband provider will find it challenging to expand to the unserved because the most profitable customers have already been cherry picked. Existing broadband providers are unlikely to expand beyond their current range or they would be doing so already. For example, Verizon is exclusively focusing on its fiber optic network (FIOS) in population dense regions to the east and Comcast fights with towns to keep from expanding its service whenever its contracts come up for renewal with towns. As a result, we could be waiting forever.
Wireless broadband has the potential of cheaply reaching many unserved homes, but our terrain will always make wireless coverage incomplete and the available speed drops significantly as distance increases from the transmitters. Furthermore, WISPs (wireless internet service providers) tend to deploy in smaller areas such as single towns — which doesn’t address our larger regional broadband problem.
That’s why WiredWest’s mission is to provide universal access: broadband connectivity to essentially everyone. And the only way that we believe we can affordably connect up all the unconnected is for the towns to work together to create a network that everyone will want to use — including those currently with broadband. And that’s why we’re advocating for a fiber optic network. Fiber offers speeds that are about 20 times faster than the high-speed services currently available from DSL, cable or wireless and with capacity to move terabytes of data without blinking.
In other words, in order to achieve broadband access for everyone — viably, sustainably — it makes sense to choose the very best technology, not just because we deserve it, but because the highest quality network generates the largest numbers of subscribers and the more people we have on board, the more affordable it is to connect everyone!
All that’s well and good you say, but since my town already has some broadband, will WiredWest have troubles building in my town? Will people be skipped over if they already have broadband? Perhaps your town has a contract with a cable TV provider, does that mean that WiredWest can’t build a fiber optic network there? What if people just don’t choose fiber optic and stick with existing broadband? Will WiredWest fail?
The short answer is that these are all reasonable concerns and building a new fiber optic network will be very challenging. More specifically, no towns have exclusive agreements with broadband providers and our goal is to connect everyone whether or not you currently have broadband. Competition is a good thing for the consumer: competing choices often result in better services and lower prices. So having multiple broadband providers is a good thing with respect to the goal of achieving universal broadband access. In addition, we plan to run our fiber optic network as “open access”, which means that any service provider — any TV, telephone, or internet provider, including the existing ones — can lease access to our fiber optic network, keep their existing customers or take on new customers, while offering them new lightening fast service.
So a WiredWest fiber optic network is not necessarily competing with other broadband providers, rather we are creating a network that all providers can use. By analogy, instead of each broadband provider building their own private dirt road to deliver packages to your house, WiredWest is building a superhighway that all of the providers can use and benefit from.
We don’t have all the answers, a detailed business model hasn’t been determined, and this isn’t going to be easy, but we’ve thought long and hard about our broadband dilemma in western Mass and believe that a community-owned fiber optic network is the best way to achieve universal access and provide the best quality services in cooperation with existing telecommunication providers.
Once the warrant article is passed in participating towns and the towns come together to form a joint entity then all of the nitty-gritty details will be worked out. Together, democratically, in the best interests of the residents, the towns will determine the best course of action: we’ll nail down costs more precisely, perform market research to determine the number of residents who are likely to subscribe to various services (e.g. internet, phone or TV), figure out the best structure for governing, building and operating the network, settle on the technical details of the network “architecture”, work closely with public and private institutions to determine the best financing strategy, and we’ll “run the numbers” over and over to ensure that we can make this work.
In the end, if it’s too risky, we pull the plug. But there are now many community-owned fiber optic networks around the country — some very successful and others not. We believe that we can learn from those who have come before us, avoid the pitfalls and replicate the successes to connect up everyone. If we don’t try, there’s a good chance we’ll be left behind as ubiquitous broadband becomes a fundamental utility essential for commerce, economic development, education, research, information, entertainment and the arts, health care and numerous other aspects of our lives. Rehab centers for mental health care are getting started in the space. Visit www.consultant.rehab for more details. Many people suffer from mental disorders when suffering from a trauma, several of these traumas can be relevant situations in their life, such as an addiction to drugs, heroin, cocaine, such situations can destroy your life, that’s why you need to search for help in case you or someone you know are suffering from a drug addiction, and visit the South Florida Detox rehab center. On the other hand, a success means we will together own a cutting edge, valuable network with the capacity to carry us forward for decades to come.