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Polito, broadband officials, check in with Shelburne

  • Recorder Staff/Diane BroncaccioLt. Gov. Karyn Polito and state Sen. Adam Hinds listen as MBI Deputy Director Edmund Donnelly answers a question about broadband connectivity.

  • Recorder Staff/Diane Broncaccio MBI Chairman Peter Larkin, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and state Sen. Adam Hinds listen to concerns voiced by John Payne of Shelburne.

  • Recorder Staff/Diane Broncaccio.Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and state Sen. Adam Hinds listen to concerns voiced by John Payne of Shelburne.



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

SHELBURNE — Rural residents drove through heavy snow to Memorial Hall on Tuesday to find out when their homes will be ready for broadband.

With them was Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who came for a progress report on the Comcast Cable Expansion Project and to hear from residents on how things are going.

“The reason why we’re here is to get an update. When we came into office, we identified 53 communities that did not have full access to internet,” Polito said. “With the urging of legislators, we made available funds for communities making their own decisions about how they want to connect,” she said.

Comcast Senior Director Alicia Matthews said, “We’ve completed over 2¼ miles and now 35 homes (in Shelburne) are able to get access. We need permission to get on the poles. Most of the work is now on the utility side; fitting poles is where the work is required.”

“We have an agreement we will make 50 percent of the total construction by Feb. 15, and we’re on track to make that,” said Matthews.

That work includes about 640 passes (access for 640 homes) by Feb. 15 among the nine towns in the cable expansion plan.

“We had hoped we’d actually be able to beat all our (deadlines),” said Matthews. “We’re going to make them on time.”

“We need Verizon to move at the same speed that Comcast is — that’s the problem I’m hearing in Shelburne,” Polito said.

MBI Chairman Peter Larkin said Chester will probably be the first town completed, primarily because its town-owned utility company has done the pole work. Next would be Pelham, because of the smaller number of people involved. Conway and Shelburne, he said, would be “near the top of the list. It all depends on when license applications come through.”

State Sen. Adam Hinds said he, state Reps. Stephen Kulik and Paul Mark met with the utility companies to urge them not to let things slow down.

Previously, Verizon spokesman Michael Murphy said the utility had worked successfully with electric and cable companies on the state’s 123 Middle Mile, covering almost 27,000 poles across 123 towns in western Massachusetts. “We’ll coordinate our work in concert with the work of others, just like we did with the original middle mile project,” he said.

John Payne of Barnard Road said his farm is a business and he needs internet access, as do his neighbors, whose children can’t get on the internet to do schoolwork.

Larry Flaccus of Kenburn Orchard said he has property he can’t rent because prospective tenants want internet access.

One man who lives in Shelburne, but outside the cable expansion area, wanted to know how his family will get internet access.

Broadband and Cable Advisory Committee Chairman Michael Duffy said Shelburne and Colrain officials have been discussing the possibility that Shelburne’s 23 or so unserved households could join Colrain’s fiberoptic network, if that system were built out beyond the Colrain-Shelburne border. The Shelburne customers would pay Colrain’s service provider, but Shelburne will have to pay for the laying of Colrain fiberoptics into the Shelburne areas.

Duffy asked if Shelburne could get reimbursed one-third the cost for this fiber-optic work, just as the fiber-optic towns have done. Duffy pointed out that the sharing of Colrain’s network for these few households would be cheaper than asking Comcast to extend its cable into Colrain to pick up these homes.

“We’re on finite resources,” said Massachusetts Broadband Institute Chairman Edmund Donnelly. He said cable companies “like to go past 25 homes per mile and get a 50 percent service take rate.”

“This is not 25 houses per mile,” he added.

When the meeting ended, Payne thanked Polito for “digging right in” on the broadband issue.

“I look forward to celebrating more milestones when I return,” she said.

After Shelburne, Polito was headed to Sunderland to make a “Green Community Visit,” similar to the one she had earlier in Wendell. And the last Franklin County town on her schedule was Leverett, where, like Shelburne, the lieutenant governor would take part in a broadband discussion.