This past Tuesday, the town of Ashfield, MA, population 1,737, authorized $2.3 million for their share of constructing a fiber broadband network in their town. The Ashfield vote brings the total WiredWest member towns to 24 – all small, rural towns in Western Massachusetts that have overwhelmingly decided they are prepared to invest in the future of their towns and the region with a locally-owned and operated telecommunications network. So far these towns have authorized over $38 million to pay for the bulk of the construction costs for their network. The state will also kick in additional funding to cover about 35 per cent of the cost, mostly through engineering and construction assistance. Network planning for the towns committed to moving forward is well underway, and construction is expected to begin next year.

The WiredWest regional cooperative enables gigabit internet for its small, rural member towns. The effort combines scarce local resources – human and capital – in the planning, and aggregates a much larger revenue base to share fixed cost operational costs and also enjoy economies of scale in both construction and operation. These are benefits that individual small towns contemplating their own networks can rarely access – but which are made possible with a collectively owned and operated regional network.

WiredWest was formed by its member towns using the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Municipal Lighting Plant statute in M.G.L. Chapter 164, Section 47c, that enables municipalities to organize jointly to finance, build and operate telecommunications networks.