Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Independent New Englanders take control of their telecom infrastructure

Last year, 22 central Vermont towns took charge of their telecom infrastructure by forming a public/private partnership to deploy 1,400 miles of aerial fiber-optic lines to provide high-speed Internet access, phone and video.

True to their fiercely independent reputation, more New Englanders in a neighboring state are doing likewise. Forty seven Western Massachusetts towns plan to form a non-profit to plan and build a fiber optic network to serve a part of the U.S. that has been described as a "broadband ghetto." A key driver is a desire to provide an economic boost to the region.

Here's an excerpt from the Berkshire (Massachusetts) Eagle story:

"This wasn't a hard sell," noted David Greenberg, chairman of the WiredWest steering committee. "It's pretty much a no-brainer -- economic development is the driving force. Without this major initiative, Western Mass is going to be sinking fast."

Once the non-profit has been formed, financing options would have to be identified, and preliminary design and cost estimate work would start.

None of the cost of the project would be borne by the towns, Webb said.

Ongoing maintenance cost and debt service payments would come from money paid to the agency by the service providers, added Andrew Michael Cohill, president of Design Nine, a consultancy hired to help WiredWest through the next phase of development.

"This is a jobs creation and a business attraction project," Cohill said. "And the highest proportion of home-based businesses in the state are in Western Mass."

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