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Shelburne cable group broadens mission

Adds new members, focuses on high-speed Internet strategies

SHELBURNE — The town’s former Cable Advisory Committee has been given a name change, new mission and some new members this week. It’s now called the Internet and Cable Advisory Committee, and its charge is to “research and find the best strategy for bringing high-speed Internet access to Shelburne.”

On Monday, Selectmen appointed the following members for the reorganized board: current members Michael Duffy and Maureen Pike and new members Larry Flaccus, Chris King and Hugh Knox. Two more seats are available on that advisory board. Selectmen filled those five seats so that the board has enough members for a quorum, whenever a vote is needed.

Duffy, chairman of the former cable committee, said he has contacted Comcast to discuss adding more cable in town for high-speed Internet. Currently, said Duffy, Shelburne has about 22 miles of cable within its borders — covering about one-third of the town’s land mass. He said DSL is available within 3 miles of the Verizon central office. For now, there is no fiber optic infrastructure within the town, although key municipal buildings are scheduled to be wired through the Massachusetts Broadband Institute’s middle-mile initiative in December.

Duffy believes partnering with Comcast may be the town’s best hope for getting higher-speed Internet. Under the recently negotiated contract, Comcast is to provide cable service for areas with at least 15 households per mile. Most remaining unserved parts of town have roughly 10 homes per mile, and Duffy hopes it may be possible for the town to partner with Comcast, so that the cable company would pay about two-thirds the cost of laying cable in these remote areas, with the town and/or households paying the rest.

He said one problem in wiring up some parts of town is that connecting nodes that would make cable expansion possible cost $60,000 each. He said the Patten Hill node, for instance, is “maxed out” and a new node would have to be added for expanded service there.

One responsiblity for the new group would be to explore possible funding options and develop “requests for proposals” that might include a combination of fiber, broadband, wireless, cable or copper. These RFPs would include completion deadlines and costs to the town.

One goal is to produce a funding plan to present at next May’s annual town meeting.

Duffy said he doesn’t see any advantage in joining with other towns for cable expansion. “Technically, we are part of WiredWest, but it seems they possibly may not do it for us,” said Duffy, alluding to the $40 million bond bill that is to leverage funding for “unserved” towns, without any cable coverage.

The Board of Selectmen, however, recommended residents write letters to legislators in support of the telecommunications bond bill, and the board plans to write its own letter of support to go to WiredWest.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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