NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Residents of towns in Berkshire County and elsewhere in Western Massachusetts will be able to learn on Saturday about a community-based effort to create public-ownership of regional broadband Internet services to the public.
WiredWest, a Municipal Light Plan Cooperative made up of 27 member towns in western Massachusetts, will hold a workshop for interested town officials on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. at the JFK Middle School, 100 Bridge Road, Florence (Northampton) MA. The organization will present, for the first time, a regional solution for operation of a broadband fiber-to-the-home network in any of the unserved towns in western Massachusetts that choose to join. WiredWest will also inform town officials what the actual costs to their subscribers will be under the plan.
last week, Susan Crawford, a brilliant legal scholar and former top White House science advisor, wrote on her blog about the slow pace of broadband modernization and access in Western Massachusetts. She suggsted politics could be a possible factor in why competitive community broadband is stuck in neutral in Western Massachusetts:
"This is the story of a dramatic failure of imagination and vision at the state level: Governor Charlie Baker’s apparent insistence that Massachusetts relegate small towns to second-rate, high-priced, monopoly-controlled (and unregulated) communications capacity. It’s a slow-rolling tragedy that will blight Western Mass for generations. The likely outcome: Only those plucky, scrappy towns that elect to build on their own will escape the grip of unconstrained pricing for awful service. The rest will fade into irrelevance."
The town of Williamstown has been studying the broadband situation and issued a Request for Proposals last year. iBerkshires reported on Wednesday that Williamstown is joining with Great Barrington, North Adams and Pittsfield in seeking funds from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to study the service they are getting from Spectrum, the new name for the merged Time-Warner/Charter cable service. "While this service is currently broadband per the federal definition of such service, there is regional concern that local officials must continue to encourage system investment so our region is not left behind in terms of technology access and can support varied new types of businesses that rely on such services well into the future," the application reads, according to iBerkshires.