MBI was initially funded and created by emergency legistlation in 2008 with a mandate to bring broadband internet service to all 45 unserved communities. Instead, they spent $80M building the MB123 middle mile to 123 communities which they claimed would attract private companies to finish the last mile. It never did and now is a hindrance to a regional last mile network. With the second round of funding in 2014, they first said they would build a regional network that WiredWest would own and operate, then a year later they reversed and wanted each town to build and own it’s own network, now they want private partnerships. With all uncertainty about policy, towns and companies cannot make progress.
The recent Municipal Modernization act requires that priority be given to regionalization. Experts who have looked at this, e.g. the Harvard University Berkman Institute’s Case Study of WiredWest, the CTC report, even MBI’s own technical staff, have all recommended a regional approach as the most efficient and cost-effective way to make broadband available to the most communities.
However, if business gas rates surge, we would likely see consumer sentiment plummet, people stop spending, and businesses would likely suffer.
Yet, despite all this, MBI resists this and encourages towns to either accept having their allotment of state funds spent on a network owned by an unregulated monopoly private company, or else to build and operate an independent network. Some of their policies impede regionalization. For example, they require each town to individually connect and utilize the MB123. This negates many of the advantages of a regional network. MBI has refused multiple offers by WiredWest to work on a regional plan that would allow many towns that cannot manage the cost and complexity of an independent network to move forward. MBI does not seem to understand that many towns cannot commit funds to a construction project without a regional management plan to make it sustainable. So far, they offer no other solution for these sparsely populated towns.
Some basic facts:
- About 15 or so unserved towns that want to build fiber networks are too small to sustainably operate a network on their own. The fixed costs divided among too few potential customers makes the cost prohibitive. Another 10 to 15 of the more densley populated unserved towns want a regional network and see it as highly advantageous, though not necessarily required in their case.
- If you combine those towns into a regionally managed network, then it becomes affordable and sustainable for all. Cost averaging brings the necessary subscriber price down dramatically for the sparser towns, economy of scale brings it down for all, and all the towns benefit from not having to individually hire vendors and manage the networks. There are additional benefits such as increased resilience, reduced risk, and a larger pool of qualified people to manage the network.
- If private partners cherry pick the denser towns, which they are already doing with MBI’s urging, and are encouraged to do more of by their recent RFP, then there may no longer be enough population density in the remaining towns to make a regional fiber network feasible.
The recent Private Partnership RFP that MBI released allows proposals for networks in “one or more municipalities.” They say they will give priority to proposals that cover more towns, but do not require it. Anyone who understands the economics of broadband networks knows that private companies will see this as an opportunity to get state money to cherry pick the most profitable towns, leaving behind the less profitable, more sparsely populated towns.
MBI apparently has an institutional bias against WiredWest that is impairing the ability of some unserved towns to make progress toward a broadband solution. The Governor and EOHED (the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development that oversees MBI) should intervene and direct […]
The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University is a public policy institute whose mission is to explore and understand cyberspace. Read the Center’s just-released long-researched case study on WiredWest.
WiredWest: a Cooperative of Municipalities Forms to Build a Fiber Optic Network. Western Massachusetts Towns Create a New Model for Last-Mile Connectivity, but a State Agency Delays Approval and Funding plus link to the study
Wiredwest Releases Analysis Showing Significant Cost Advantage Of A Regional Fiber Network Over Stand-Alone Town Networks
It recently became clear that a rational, data driven analysis comparing the financial impacts of regionalization with towns going it alone was needed for all involved. Only with such a comparison could towns make informed, eyes wide open, decisions on how best to proceed with bringing broadband to their citizens. And this data will assist our elected and appointed leaders in their effort to weigh the pros and cons of the range of solutions to bridge our digital divide. This analysis is now complete and provides an in-depth financial comparison of a regional broadband network model to a standalone model. It includes an online app and can be applied to any of our towns. The report is now available by clicking here.
This data-driven analysis uses as a standard the Leverett, MA model – whose currently operating ISP & Network services are […]
Tim Newman (WiredWest Spokesperson and Delegate from New Marlborough) and Bob Labrie (WiredWest Executive Committee, Treasurer and Delegate from Goshen) are interviewed for this piece that showcases the efforts small towns are making to bring high speed internet to rural America.
Click here for a link to the story and accompanying transcript.
While cable companies provide internet services for the majority of Americans in urban areas, many rural residents have been left on the dark side of the digital divide. According to a report by the Federal Communications Commission, 34 million Americans lack access to high speed Internet — 23 million of them in small towns and rural areas of the country. Now, some communities are banding together through internet cooperatives to build their own high speed networks. NewsHour Weekend Correspondent Ivette Feliciano reports.
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?