The WiredWest Board of Directors has unanimously approved a substantial revision to its structural framework in response to concerns expressed by some member towns and by the MBI (Massachusetts Broadband Institute). The changes in the Regional Broadband Operational Plan, as the model is now called, address three specific areas: ownership of network assets, ability of the towns to withdraw from the cooperative and the management of outsourced services.
The simpliest way to understand Plan A2 is to compare the proposed network to the functioning of a single town network. In a stand-alone model, the single town MLP would outsource key services like network operations, ISP services, call centers, technical support, billing and around-the-clock maintenance. The town of Leverett is currently functioning in this manner and has developed an overview of their institutional, contractual and financial arrangements that provides an in-depth look at what’s involved. In addition, the MLP is also responsible for the administrative functions needed to negotiate with, select, manage, monitor and pay the private sector providers of those services. This is where the WiredWest Regional Operational Plan comes into play. Since most towns have neither the administrative staff nor the expertise to handle the responsibilities of running a modern telecommunications network or they prefer not to develop that capacity on a town level, WiredWest will fill that role by functioning as a regional MLP on behalf of member towns.
The WiredWest Regional Operational Plan addresses the concerns of some of the member towns and the MBI as follows:
- Ownership of the network assets
Under the Regional Operational Plan, towns own the infrastructure within their border that they paid for. A town that wishes to withdraw from the network can simply “unplug” from it and operate an stand-alone network.
- Withdrawal from WiredWest
Under the WiredWest Regional Operational Plan, towns will be able to withdraw at any time after the network has been operational for 5 years without any penalty or necessary approval from the rest of the co-op.
- Operation of the Network
Under the WiredWest Regional Operational Plan, third party vendors will be providing all services other than those required by an MLP managed by WiredWest on behalf of the towns. In other words, Network operations, ISP services, call centers, technical support, billing and 24/7 maintenance may be outsourced.
Under the WiredWest Regional Operational Plan, a regional solution will result in lower costs to customers. WiredWest has recently completed a comprehensive analysis on the benefits of regionalization that supports this view.
WiredWest looks forward to working with the new MBI management team and engaging in an exchange of ideas in order to mutually arrive at a solution that will make fiber to the home affordable to the largest number of towns possible.
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The WiredWest structure has always been fluid in order to accomodate the needs and concerns of all stakeholders, including member towns and the state as represented by the MBI. The changes to our structure detailed in the WiredWest Regional Broadband Operational Plan are representative of that flexibility.
Gov. Charlie Baker and Town Leaders Talk Over Video Skype at Stan Rosenberg’s Municipal Conference. Watch and Listen as Town Leaders Tell the Governor What Life Without Broadband is Doing to Their Towns.
“The Baker administration should clear the air regarding its plans for “last mile” broadband Internet money. Doing so would clear uncertainty that now exists for WiredWest’s effort to bring Internet to the county’s smaller towns.”
In a recent article in the The Recorder, “Wendell Eyes WiredWest Alternatives,” it was implied that Shutesbury and New Salem are looking at ways to build a (small) regional network. While our broadband committees are continuously evaluating all options as a part of appropriate due diligence on this critical issue, we do not at this time see any benefits to forming small regional networks. We have recently met with representatives from Wendell (and a local internet service provider) and are not convinced that the business model presents the economy and the stability that is essential in such an investment by our towns. Similarly, the article suggested that we are concerned about distributed ownership of the network in the larger WiredWest cooperative model. To the contrary, for a large cooperative, we see substantial benefits arising from the shared ownership model in terms of construction and operational efficiencies and in the cost efficiencies that accrue from the distribution of maintenance risk over a significantly larger enterprise. In addition, the stability that shared ownership brings is critical to the long term viability of the cooperative business model.
WiredWest: our cooperative solution for broadband internet in western Massachusetts
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