WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – The Greylock region isn’t on any physical superhighways, but a group of citizens and experts will meet Wed., June 10 in Williamstown to discuss how it can make sure its residents and businesses are on the fastest of information superhighways.
“A Conversation about Connections: Can the Greylock Region Keep Up with the Digital Economy?” is set for 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. on Wed., June 10, at the Milne Public Library in Williamstown. The roundtable is free and public. It is organized by Citizen Media Inc., the nonprofit publisher of The Greylock Independent.
In Worcester, Mass., a test found a standard residential subscriber to Internet broadband service supplied by Charter Cable ran at 65 megabits per second and cost $51 a month. In Williamstown, by contrast, 50 megabit service from Time Warner – the fastest offered routinely, is advertised regularly at $69 a month.
But Williamstown and North Adams have something available that residents of Worcester do not – their towns are served by a state Internet “backbone” – MassBroadband 123 -- that could make 1 gigabit – that’s 1,000 megabits – of speed available to the region’s homes. The result -- businesses could locate here and their employees could work as if they were sitting next to colleagues in any high-tech center in the world.
In organizing the June 10 gathering, Citizen Media member Bill Densmore wrote to participants:
The Greylock region is blessed with a spectacular environment and, because of population decline, ample physical infrastructure for its size. It's former reputation as physically isolated can now become a great strength and draw -- a place where efficient, intense creativity can be blended with tranquility, community and physical beauty.
But the growth of our knowledge and arts economy will be slowed or stopped if a key enabling element -- Internet connectivity -- is sub par. Standard Internet service offered by Verizon is not classified as "broadband" by the FCC, and business-class and fast service from Time Warner is variable and relatively expensive compared to cities.
Meanwhile, Vermont, New York State, and small hill towns of Massachusetts are all slated to have faster services. What can North Adams, Adams and Williamstown do to economically meet or exceed the quality of service offered by other locations so that our region is attractive to knowledge-economy entrepreneurs?
Join us for a open conversation on this topic.
For additional news, links and updates to this story go to:http://newshare.com/wiki/indexp.php/Broadband
Among participants in the June 10 circle-round discussion will be:
- Donald Dubendorf, a Williamstown attorney who has studied and worked on statewide Internet broadband-access issues for more than two decades.
- State Rep. Gailanne M. Cariddi, D-North Adams (via Skype teleconference).
- Ben Greenfield, of Cogs Inc., in Williamstown, who is proposing a neighborhood high-speed broadband project.
- Adam Chait, account manager, Berkshire Fiber Connect in Great Barrington.
- Mark Bouvier, sales director, Axia NGNetworks, Boston. Axia is a private company which won the contract to operate the MassBroadband 123 fiber network.
- Bill Stathis, Crocker Communications, Springfield, Mass. Crocker has a key role in operating the municipally-owned broadband network in the small town of Leverett, near Amherst, which will make gigabyte speeds available to residents.
Teresa Martin, who heads Lower Cape Community Access Television, holds journalism and education degrees, helped lead Silicon Valley startups and advised on broadband issues for the Cape Cod Technology Council.
- Anne O’Connor, newly elected selectperson in Williamstown.
Greenfield has 24 years experience building interactive systems for businesses, museums, and individuals. He is a technology consultant to the Calder Foundation in New York, and lives in Williamstown.
LITTLE "BROADBAND" IN WILLIAMSTOWN NOW
At present, Williamstown residents can connect to the Internet via Verizon’s copper phone lines using a technology called “DSL”. It typically runs at speeds of 3 megabits/second or less at standard pricing of about $40/month. The Federal Communications Commission defines "broadband" as six times that speed ---25 megabits/second or more.
"The new broadband benchmark sets downloads at a speed of 25 megabits a second and uploads of 3 megabits a second. The previous standard was a download speed of 4 megabits a second and an upload speed of 1 megabit a second," the New York Times reported in January.
The only "broadband" supplier is Time Warner, which delivers speeds in the 10-20 megabit range to standard residential customers -- still less than FCC-defined "broadband". Time Warner's network is capable of much higher speeds, but they charge more.
Dubendorf was among key people who organized the use of federal and state grants to make use of fiber optic cables running along the Massachusetts Turnpike over the last decade. A fiber-optic spur runs up Routes 20 and 7 to Williamstown and over to North Adams and Adams. That spur, experts say, is capable of delivering gigabyte (1,000 megabit) speeds to thousands of consumer users.
The challenge is getting that speed capacity beyond key locations like Williams College, the Clark Art Institute, Town Hall, libraries, schools, the Harper Center and the Water Street fire station.
One idea to be discuss on June 10 is whether “microcells” could be mounted on one or more of those buildings for delivering wireless broadband – faster than Time Warner -- to subscribers.
Officials from both Time Warner and Mass Broadband have both declined to have their organizations send anyone to the June 10 event, citing unspecified schedule conflicts. An invitation to Verizon is pending.
"You often hear that it is too expensive to bring fiber-optic lines to every home, business and institution in a rural ara," Monica Webb, volunteer chairman of WiredWest, said in a 2010 interview with Berkshire Trade & Commerce (AUDIO: recent interview). "But that only means it's too expensive for the business model of private-sector companies who have to show profitability in a very short period. It is not too expensive if it is done by the communities themselves on a basis that does not have to meet those market demands."
THE VERMONT HIGH-SPEED PROJECT
Check out the costs for gigabit ethernet in communities throughout the country here:
- Note the closest community is Springfield, Vermont.
Springfield, Vermont: With a lot of government assistance, VTel recently started deploying gigabit Internet and phone service to as many as 17,500 customers in its rural service area. The price is the best part: customers only have to pay $35 a month for the cheapest package that includes one gigabit. VTel officially places a monthly bandwidth cap of 2.5TB on customers, but it says it generally lets them go well over that without penalty.An article on what they did is LINKED HERE.