Greenfield Mayor William Martin takes first step toward townwide Internet, phone service

GREENFIELD — It may not be long before the town is providing itself, its residents and its businesses with high-speed Internet and telephone service and, the mayor hopes, saving everyone money.

Greenfield is launching its three-step Technology Master Plan by upgrading its 30- to 40-year-old telephones and 3- to 10-year-old computers, Mayor William Martin announced Tuesday.

The mayor said the town is seeking funding from the Federal Communications Commission and the state to provide about $5 million to see the project through. He said when completed, the town will provide telephone and Internet services to all town offices and schools, residents and businesses.

“We don’t know how much, yet, but we expect there will be a significant savings to all,” said Martin.

“We needed to take advantage of the opportunity we have before us,” he said. “We have seven miles of fiber optics going through Greenfield. We can rent space along that seven miles to provide such services.”

Martin said the town would provide the services and subcontract the maintenance.

“This will stabilize costs and make Internet and telephone available to all,” he said.

Martin said implementation will happen in three phases.

The first will be the town government’s update of telephones and computers.

The second will be for the town to choose data networking speeds, memory, storage, data management, security, data sharing and such.

The final step — Martin said he is not yet sure about time lines — will have the greatest impact to the community.

“That’s when we build a low-cost, high-speed ‘last mile’ broadband infrastructure to support the town’s new IT infrastructure,” said Martin.

“The Town of Greenfield, like most cities and towns in the U.S., is suffering from a lack of broadband infrastructure and services,” said Robert Pyers, the town’s economic development director.

Pyers, who has been working for more than three years with the mayor on the project, said the town will be able to supply Internet to areas of town that haven’t been able to get it in the past and be a choice in other parts of town.

“Where infrastructure and services do exist now, there is a lack of adequate speed and a very high cost for service,” said Pyers.

“We are convinced the town’s investments in municipal IT and telecommunications resources will have a transformative effect on the town’s economic and community development efforts,” said Pyers.

Martin initiated the project in 2010 because of his concerns about the lack of infrastructure investment by Verizon and Comcast.

“While the state has recently stepped forward to help by bringing in its ‘middle-mile’ MBI fiber optic network, the issue Greenfield faces is the lack of local ‘last-mile’ broadband infrastructure to cost effectively connect businesses and residents,” to the new fast pipeline, said Martin. “Our Technology Master Plan resolves the last-mile hybrid fiber — a wireless broadband network independent of the Verizon and Comcast networks.”

Martin said he views broadband infrastructure just as he does water, sewer, roads and schools — all benefit all residents and businesses.

“We understand that voice, data and Internet services are not a luxury, but essential services which stimulate and sustain economic growth and improve the quality of life for our residents and businesses,” he said.

Martin said three firms, all located in Massachusetts, have been working with the town: Kelley Management Group Inc. of Wilbraham, JFK Systems of Somerset and The Skyline Group of Uxbridge.

The mayor has made several presentations to the Town Council concerning the town building telecommunications infrastructure and said he will continue to keep the council informed.

Martin said in the end, it will allow every business and resident to take advantage of today’s global resources offered by the Internet.

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