Leyden discusses anticipated revenue from broadband network

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2021 3:24:50 PM

LEYDEN — The town broadband buildout could produce $300,000 in service revenue in its first year.

Speaking before the Selectboard on Tuesday, Andy Killeen, chair of the Leyden Municipal Light Plant and volunteer head of the town’s Broadband Department, said the network’s buildout has continued successfully into 2021. He said the town has about 268 individual locations in town online, with 308 out of 343 possible connecting homes filling out applications.

“When I took over the project in the middle of last year from Bob Ryan, we had anticipated the total project cost for the installation phase was going to amount to about $1.29 million,” Killeen said. “Our actual spending to date is about $1.24 million.”

The project has the potential to finish roughly $22,000 over budget, which Killeen said is “not bad” for a project of this scale. According to Killeen, the broadband network is taking in money via a Stripe account, which transfers credit card, debit card and bank account withdrawals directly to the broadband account.

The first year in operation, Killeen said, has the potential to see roughly $300,000 in service revenue. About 180 of the current 268 customers signed up for phone and internet service, which costs $99 a month. Approximately 88 customers signed up for internet only for $85 a month.

The operating costs over the course of 2021 are expected to be around $141,000. Incoming funds are projected to be close to $200,000.

Killeen also discussed a “drop cost reimbursement,” which comes from the state to help cover the cost associated with the fiber-optic connection to people’s homes and municipal buildings.

“There’s a limitation on how much we are able to apply for so … bottom line is we’re getting about $120,000 in drop cost reimbursements,” Killeen said. “The construction of drops was just a little less than $530,000, so we’re getting 23 percent of that back from the state.”

The Selectboard and Killeen also briefly discussed the possibility of bringing on future staff to help operate the town Broadband Department in the future. Killeen said he is happy to have given his time to the town thus far, and would welcome support on the administrative end.

In May 2017, Leyden was awarded a Last Mile Program grant of $680,000 from the state. Then, in January 2020, the Federal Communications Commission authorized $10.2 million in funding for the internet service provider Westfield Gas & Electric to help expand fiber-based broadband to 12,400 households in 20 Western Massachusetts towns, including Leyden and nine other towns in Franklin County. Leyden received $250,000 over a 10-year period to put toward broadband expenses.

Residents interested in receiving the high-speed internet service can learn more and apply for connection at whipcityfiber.com/leyden.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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