In the afternoon of Tuesday May 8th, I attended a broadband meeting hosted by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield, MA. The operator of MBI’s backbone, Axia, was also present. Numerous representatives were invited to the meeting, including municipalities, public safety, internet providers, health and medical, state and local libraries, etc. MBI and Axia hosted a three hour meeting, including presentation and question/answer periods.
This was mostly intended to be an informational meeting, which summarized most of the basics that I have written about in previous broadband articles. However, there were some important facts and updates, some pertaining directly to Alford…
- MBI owns the fiber backbone that is being constructed, G4S is building out the physical network, and once it is completed Axia will be operating the network and providing services at fixed bulk pricing to internet providers, etc. The MBI’s pole, environmental and route-change surveys are complete, cost and time prevents any further changes to the plans. So far, 27 miles of fiber have been completed, out of approximately 1300 miles required for the entire MBI backbone project.
- Alford is in “Build Phase 2” in MBI’s build-out plan, however Phase 2 is already underway because the utility poles in our area were surveyed and licensed sooner than in the other areas. G4S has already run feeder cable in Alford, and the fiber network boxes have already been installed at our CAIs (community access institutions, our town hall and firehouse). The last steps to complete Alford’s fiber backbone (a) require the actual fiber backbone to be run to our CAIs and (b) and the fiber to be “lit up” and activated by Axia.
- Once MBI’s fiber backbone is lit up and ready for use, potential last-mile providers (such as WiredWest, WiSpring, etc) will then be able to expand and work off from the fiber backbone in order to eventually provide us with services. The MBI backbone must be completed by June 2013 in order to meet their financial deadlines, however it could be another year or two before we have last-mile providers extending service in Alford. So, the current estimated year of availability is 2015.
Town Meeting Follow-Up
On the evening of Tuesday May 8th at Alford’s annual town meeting, the second vote to approve the MLP (Article 13) was passed, with 54 yes votes and 1 no vote. The next part of the process involves submitting all of the proper paperwork to the state to create Alford’s MLP on paper. Once that step is completed, we will be able to officially join WiredWest as a member town, who may be acting as our middle-mile manager to help provide us with last-mile services.
The Alford Broadband Committee’s work is far from over. We will continue to meet and discuss additional options concerning expansion, open-provider selection, financing that may help to expand existing and future services, etc. For example, our town may qualify for additional RFP grants from the US Department Of Agriculture to help with funding more broadband solutions. Our committee is dedicated to seeking as well as assisting the best possible broadband options for our town. We will keep you posted from time to time on our overall progress.
The Alford Broadband Committee