Getting wired for wireless

Last modified: 10/12/2015 3:43:29 PM
GREENFIELD — The hybrid fiber-wireless broadband network the town will offer for free along Main and High streets until the first of next year is expected to be up and running by the end of next week.

Daniel Kelley, president of Kelley Management Group Inc. in Wilbraham, the town’s consultant for the project, said there are have been several delays — the most recent because some equipment needed for the project was just shipped at the end of last week.

Kelley said the final leg of the project will be finished by the middle of next week, so residents, businesses and visitors will be able to connect to a free network that will offer 25-megabits-per-second (Mbps) upload and download for mobile and fixed devices.

Because there have been delays — originally the mayor had hoped to have the free network installed this past summer and up and running by Aug. 1 and then had to push the start date to Oct. 1 — the free network will only be available for about two and a half months.

Mayor William Martin’s plan is to bring Internet to the entire town and in early 2016, turn what began as a pilot program into a paid service for all residents and businesses, but at a much lower cost than people are paying now.

The pilot program will run from the corner of Main and Colrain streets at the west end, to the police station at the end of High Street on the east end of town.

Capwave Technologies Inc. of Asbury Park, N.J. has been hired by the town to complete the project. Collins Electric of Chicopee and Fibertech of North Grafton are constructing the network.

Kelley said the bigger job of constructing a 60-mile network, should voters approve the town’s creation of a municipal entity to provide municipal broadband Internet service to all, will go out to bid after the vote on Nov. 3.

“Greenfield’s new municipal broadband pilot project is being engineered to employ leading-edge technology, which will replace the antiquated legacy telephone and cable networks that residents and businesses currently rely on,” said Kelley.

Martin said the goal of the project is to improve the business climate and quality of life in Greenfield. He said he wants everyone who wants high-speed Internet to be able to afford it.

“We’ll be providing high-quality, low-cost technology to all residents, businesses and municipal departments,” said Martin.

He said if voters reject the proposal on Nov. 3, the town will wire all of its municipal and school buildings, shut off the pilot program on Jan. 1, and go back to the way things have been.

Town Council approved borrowing $500,000 to build the network beyond the pilot program. Martin said that loan will be paid with revenues from the completed project, when it becomes a pay-for service.

Martin said if voters do not approve the project, the town will not borrow the money.

Martin’s plan is to create a nonprofit to run the service. It will be called GreenLight Power and would not only provide the wireless network, but maintain and service it.

He said the 60-mile network would be built pieces at a time — the town will determine where to build it as it goes.

Martin said he hopes the entire network is built by the end of 2016, which means everyone in town would have the option to purchase wireless and telephone service from the town.

Unlike Greenfield’s municipal electricity aggregation, which automatically signed up all residents to buy electricity from the town and then residents had to opt out if they didn’t want it, residents and businesses would have to sign themselves up for the broadband service.

Kelley said people would be able to buy different plans, depending on their needs, and costs could be as much as 30, 40 or 50 percent less than they pay now for the same plans with different companies.

The town would offer 25 megabits per second as a basic plan, but people could buy more. It would be a nonprofit structure, so that would allow the town to offer significantly lower than commercial Internet service providers.

Martin said the town’s nonprofit would be self-sustaining, and that’s one of the reasons Greenfield will be able to offer broadband at such low rates.

If voters approve the pay-for program and the nonprofit when they go to the polls in less than a month, it could cost the town about $5 million to provide wireless to every area of Greenfield.

Internet access speeds for the pilot program will be limited to up to 25-Mbps per user, built on a 1-Gbps backbone, but the full townwide system will be built on a 10-Gbps backbone.

The money for the townwide network would also be borrowed and paid back with revenues from the program.

Martin said the municipal broadband deployment plan will not impose any new taxes on Greenfield residents and businesses now or ever.

He said the revenue produced by the program will not only pay for the network, but will eventually be used for community preservation, conservation, education and recreation.

The town plans to work with the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, Greenfield Business Association and others to market the project. It also plans to hold public forums in each precinct, after the town election on Nov. 3, to discuss the project.

To learn more about it, visit: www.greenlightinternet.com or www.accessgreenfield.org.




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