Twice the speed

Warwick doubles bandwidth; more to come

WARWICK — “Our Internet bandwidth doubled Wednesday, although nobody seemed to notice.”

Town Coordinator David Young said the town-run wireless Internet service’s connection went from 15 to 30 Mbps Wednesday, but the extra capacity was gobbled right up by hungry users.

“It was a snow-day and everyone was home, using every last bit of it,” said Young, who runs the self-funding broadband service.

Young said the demand exists even when people aren’t snowbound, and the connection has been close to its limit since the upgrade. Started in 2008, the service now has about 220 paying users in and around Warwick, with connection speeds up to (and sometimes slightly over) 1 Mbps per customer.

For comparison, those who live in towns served by Comcast broadband can buy plans from 6 to 105 Mbps. Warwick is not served by Comcast or any other large broadband provider, and doesn’t expect one to come to town anytime soon.

Warwick gets its Internet connection via microwave radio link from Mount Tom to Warwick’s Mount Grace. From there, the signal goes out to radio antennas at users’ locations.

Some coming connections will bring some competition to the market.

In addition to linking Warwick to the World Wide Web, the Mount Grace tower also relayed an Internet connection to Fitzwilliam, N.H. Fitzwilliam recently tapped into a wired backbone, and no longer needs the radio connection.

Young said that radio link could be used in reverse, linking Warwick’s users to Fitzwilliam’s wired connection. Young said the town could again double its connection, buying between 30 and 50 Mbps of additional bandwidth.

The town coordinator said this link could go live by the end of the month, though it might take a snowmobile to take a consultant up to the tower to reconfigure equipment.

The biggest change will come once Warwick has its own hard-wired, fiber-optic Internet backbone. Young said the near-completed connection will enable the town to boost broadband by another 50 to 100 Mbps.

The fiber connection to the Mount Grace tower was put on hold in the fall, when it was found that workers didn’t have the proper permit to dig a 20-yard cable trench from a utility pole to the tower. The permits are all lined up now, and Young expects the connection to be ready in April.

Having three ways to link up to the Internet could get Warwick some more competitive rates, and will give the town a backup, should their primary connection go down.

Warwick Broadband buys its bandwidth on a month-to-month basis, so it won’t find itself locked into a long-term deal. If the price of one connection drops, the town can buy more of its bandwidth from that source.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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