A small group of us met last night in the studios of Northampton Community TV, our first in person meeting. An online meeting was attempted on February 20 using a Google Hangout. Unfortunately a terrible feedback issue made it impossible to continue.
While few in numbers there was tremendous energy from attendees. We quickly talked through issues and strategies and planned a way forward.
Some general notes:
- We discussed nearby efforts at creating municipal networks.
- Perhaps the most successful network recently created was created in the Town of Leverett, where 1gbps fiber is available to anyone that subscribes. Leverett though had no competition. Neither Verizon nor Comcast were interested in building their muni.
- Holyoke’s muni through Holyoke Gas & Electric has been available for a long time.
- Greenfield’s muni is currently having financial issues and is Wifi only.
- Easthampton is beginning a petitioning process for its own muni. Based on the size of its listserv email list, it enjoys broad city support in spite of having Charter as a basic provider.
- Freepress.net is a Northampton nonprofit fighting net neutrality nationwide. We should contact them and ask for their support.
- Based on a chat with Mayor Narkewicz in December 2016, we believe the City Council will give us a fair hearing. Before going to the City Council though we need to do more research and identify more stakeholders.
- We identified some of the likely bottlenecks to building a muni. One is that a “municipal light district” has to be created and it needs to be done over two city fiscal years. A survey would need to be done of Northampton residents to determine the level of support. It may require a city wide referendum vote.
- The city’s contract with Comcast is to provide cable TV to Northampton residents. Part of the fees that Comcast charges for cable TV is rebated to the city and pays for NCTV and possibly other city efforts. There is no requirement for citizens to get internet services through Comcast.
- Verizon is not interested in expanding FiOS service in the Northampton area, but is concentrating on making profits through access and services on the wireless spectrum.
- Comcast steps down fiber to coaxial cable to the home. Many but not all telephone polls carry Comcast fiber optic cable.
- Anyone with the money can petition to place wires on the telephone polls in the city. They are jointly owned by Comcast and Verizon. However, the city government’s fiber that is already on these cables cannot be extended to provide a municipal internet. This would have to be done through a chartered “Municipal Light Plant”.
- Comcast services are not tuned for businesses. Many businesses have the need for faster upload speeds. Comcast’s architecture appears to make this impossible.
- There is a local Internet for All Facebook group. People interested in this topic using Facebook should join the group.
Some action items from the meeting:
- We’ll be reaching out to the city’s IT department, figuring we need the opinions of people working in city government on the climate for such an action within city government
- We’ll be creating a mailing list to allow interested people in the Northampton area to learn about actions underway and participate in conversations via email
- We’ll meet again online in about two weeks
- We’ll meet again at NCTV on Thursday, April 5 at 7 PM in the studio
Some things left hanging:
- Creating a social media presence
- Updating this website
- Reaching out to freepress.net