As of today, the Alford Broadband Survey for 2012 is being printed for postal delivery. It’s been a few years since we’ve performed a broadband survey, and we need updated statistics to determine the broadband internet needs for our town. You should receive the survey in your postal mail very soon, it is of the utmost importance that you participate in this survey. It needs to be filled out and returned before February 29th, you can mail it back or drop it off at the Town Offices.
My original plan was to post a broadband survey on the town’s web site, but then I realized that an online survey may not reach everyone. A postal survey will be more effective at getting everyone’s participation and should produce far more accurate results. It will give providers a clear understanding of our needs, our desires, and their potential “take-rate” for customers and services.
I will be compiling the survey data in the beginning of March. The statistical information will be posted here on the town’s site, and your street addresses will be compiled and delivered to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute for broadband mapping. This information will also be given to Wired West, WiSpring, and may be sent to other potential internet providers upon request.
The Fiber-Optic Backbone
As you may remember from town meetings and from postings on the town site, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) will be running a fiber-optic backbone into our town, but will only be connecting directly to the Town Offices, the Town Hall, the Highway Department and the Fire Department. In order to provide services to the rest of us, internet providers will be connecting to the fiber-optic backbone to give us residential and business connections.
We already have a local wireless internet provider, WiSpring, who is providing internet access to the town, and WiSpring will benefit from the MBI backbone. WiredWest is the regionally-created fiber-optic provider that we voted on in the 2011 town meeting last May, and we need to pass a second vote for WiredWest (and to establish a Municipal Lighting Plant with them) at Alford’s 2012 town meeting this May so that we can become a Wired West member town. Other providers, such as Verizon, Time Warner, etc, may want to offer services through the fiber as well after MBI’s backbone has been established.
Broadband Meetings Summary
I have not attended broadband meetings for several months, as some of the meetings have been informational (more geared toward public awareness), and at this point, here in Alford we do not need any more information to proceed. I may attend the larger, more publicized area meetings and will record and post videos when possible.
I’ve been taking part in all of the MBI’s telephone conference meetings. They haven’t had one in quite some time, but I’ll be joining in on one this week, and will post a summary.
WiredWest’s meetings have primarily been geared toward planning with the towns that have already become WiredWest members (and who have already passed two votes of approval). Once we’ve become a full-fledged member town of WiredWest, I will be representing our town in their meetings.
The few things that are holding us back from getting service are politics, funding, and time. Funding is needed to fuel the fiber-optic roll-out at the state level, time is needed to physically set up the backbone, and obviously politics tends to hold back progress. However, MBI has approved state and federal funding with a deadline to complete the fiber-optic roll-out by the summer of 2013.
WiSpring continues to provide our town with wireless internet services. In 2011 they performed changes and upgrades within their network to give us stronger connections and smoother internet speeds. Overall, we have not had any outages in quite some time, and I have not received any complaints about service issues in months. WiSpring has not only improved their backbone with newer technology as it has become available, they have also been working on expansion. They are in the process of establishing services in the town of Tyringham, and they have plans to establish service in West Stockbridge as well. I’ve been told by WiSpring that one of their towers in West Stockbridge may be erected not far from the northern border of Alford, which may be able to provide more of our northern residents with wireless internet access.
WiredWest will not be able to progress in the physical roll-out of their services until the MBI backbone is complete. But in the meantime, WiredWest has continued to become more organized, they’ve established a business plan, they’ve been moving forward in planning their own structure, and have been ironing out the political and financial speed bumps along their path. WiredWest already has some approved state funding, and they continue to apply for more funding as potential grants become available. This week, the Alford Selectmen signed support for another source of funding that will be a great help to WiredWest if they receive it.
Happy New Year everyone!
Sincerely, Arthur Dellea