WiredWest Project History and Overview
WiredWest’s original “Plan A” was to build and operate a regional fiber broadband network for member towns. Fiber is the best technology that can deliver fast, reliable broadband internet to all premises. Doing this regionally is the most efficient and cost effective approach, and would minimize the burden to individual towns. Experts, including MBI’s own technical staff, have all recommended a regional network. MBI initially endorsed this plan and made joint presentations with WiredWest starting in November 2014 asking towns to pass debt authorizations for roughly 2/3 of the cost. MBI would provide the remaining share and oversee planning and construction in consultation with WiredWest. Once Built, the network would be turned over to WiredWest to own and operate.
24 towns passed their spending authorizations. WiredWest ran a campaign to get 40% or more of residents to sign up with a $49 deposit years in advance of an anticipated network as a show of support. Most towns succeeded in achieving this. WiredWest worked on gathering data, planning a network, creating a financial model and business plan, and an organizational agreement to form an LLC with each town owning a proportional share of the regional network.
Unfortunately, in December of 2015 MBI changed course and advocated for each town to build and own it’s own network. They abruptly made public announcements that they would not fund WiredWest’s plan. Subsequent negotiations failed. In response to complaints from many towns, the Governor stepped in and re-organized the State’s effort. He appointed Peter Larkin as his special envoy and Bill Ennen as Town Liaison to get the project on track. The new regime was more flexible for towns, but placed a greater burden on towns. MBI’s process was slow and cumbersome. They changed course many times. Towns grew frustrated at the lack of progress.
As a result of WiredWest’s advocacy, the Administration announced on April 3, 2017 that it would offer expedited grants to towns that wish to manage building their own networks in the full amount of their allocated funds with nothing held back for MBI. Westfield Gas and Electric (WG&E), an MLP that already provides fiber broadband service in Westfield, is offering to manage building networks for towns. MLP’s may work together without the usual procurement process.
WiredWest has adapted to the situation. WiredWest is no longer directly involved with construction of networks, but now has a long range broadband solution to connect member towns’ networks into a regional network for efficient and cost-effective operation. We will be providing advice and guidance for towns in planning their networks to be compatible with eventual regional operation. We have negotiated and signed a contract with Westfield Gas & Electric to provide network operations, customer service, and other operational costs on a regional basis under very favorable terms. We now have a financial plan and business model based on actual vendor quotes and known costs. The new pricing and summary of cash flow and responsibilities are now available. Also see Key Features of the WiredWest Regional Broadband Solution.