GCET prepares to expand into Greenfield’s northern section

  • John Lunt, general manager of GCET, right, shows U.S. Sen. Edward Markey the POP, or point of presence, in the basement of Greenfield City Hall in November. City Hall houses one of GCET’s routing and switching arrays. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/20/2021 5:05:34 PM
Modified: 12/20/2021 5:05:19 PM

GREENFIELD — The process for GCET’s expansion into the northern section of Greenfield is underway, according to General Manager John Lunt.

“The last year has shown just how valuable reliable, affordable internet service is to a community,” Lunt said in a GCET press release. “People use it to work from home, stay in touch with relatives, get critical access to health care and shop for things they need. It is as essential a utility as water or electricity.”

Well over a thousand homes will have access to the locally owned service by late spring or early summer, the release states. The buildout dates back to spring 2017.

The expansion marks the internet service provider’s last big section of the city, with small pockets remaining in the area of Munson Street and Wisdom Way, Lunt said in an interview on Monday. He anticipates getting to those areas next fall.

“It will bring them reliable, symmetrical — which means same upload speed as download speed — internet that will save them 30% to 50% (in cost) over the services they have now,” said Lunt. “And they’ll have local customer service.”

Symmetrical speeds are very important, he said, in particular for people working from home who use video conferencing.

“One thing we learned from the pandemic is upload speeds are much more important than they used to be,” Lunt said. “GCET’s upload speeds are 20% to 30% faster than other options.”

In addition to symmetrical high-speed internet, service will include streaming TV and phone service.

Currently, residents in areas of Greenfield not serviced by GCET must rely on legacy cable providers or DSL, Lunt said. This expansion will provide a more affordable option with local customer service.

The project will largely be funded with the help of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, according to Lunt. The $1.9 trillion federal relief package that was signed into law in March provides Greenfield with roughly $5.1 million that can be used to respond to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 or its negative economic impacts, as premium pay for essential workers, revenue replacement and for infrastructure projects such as broadband, water and sewer.

Mayor Roxann Wedegartner previously said Greenfield has $2.9 million in hand, which the city has five years to spend. The city expects to receive the remaining balance in summer 2022.

Of that money, $650,000 was recently allocated to GCET to complete its buildout.

“We’re still doing the engineering, but we anticipate ARPA to pay for the majority of it,” Lunt said.

Throughout January, GCET, which stands for Greenfield Community Energy and Technology, will continue to engineer the proper placement of fiber-optic cable and other equipment, including a new switching enclosure, according to the release. Between February and May, GCET will begin putting fiber on poles, installing additional hardware and configuring the new enclosure.

Customers should expect to be able to sign up for service by mid-May.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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