Summary of April 5, 2018 meeting

A number of us met Thursday at Northampton Community TV to discuss what we’ve done so far and our next steps.

  • Bill Stathis, Sales Manager for Crocker Communications and Brad Munroe of Fujitsu Network Communications stopped by to give us their experiences on working on community network initiatives. Fujitsu is a partner of Crocker Communications. They had many lessons learned to share and many insights from having worked with various municipalities in Massachusetts and New England. As a result we hope to do some outreach. Some of the advice we received included:
    • Westfield’s Whip City Network is an example of a local community building their own. We hope to talk to them to learn about their experience.
    • We were also referred to the City of Sanford, Maine similar to Northampton in that they also have Comcast as a Internet Service Provider yet are working to create their own municipal network.
    • A 30% take rate (percent of homes that will subscribe) is useful for planning purposes. In other words, it’s realistic to plan for the system to be solvent based on 30% of homes subscribed.
    • These networks can offer features not typically available from commercial ISPs. For example, there are hundreds of apps available for these networks, for example, apps that allow tracking of city snowplows in real time.
    • Pay attention to helping residents connect to these services. Typically an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) is installed at the house and it’s left to the homeowner to figure out how to do the wiring. Leverett, Massachusetts set up a test lab where homeowners and electricians could go to see how to make the various connections. A group that holds subscribers hands and does wiring at a reasonable cost is a key to system success.
    • There should generally be two classes of service: for residents and business as they have distinctly different needs
    • There is definitely a trend away from bundled services (Double and Triple Play) and toward using apps to get the content wanted. For example, networks have apps for getting live streams over the Internet. It is expected that local TV channels will do more of this in the future.
    • There is a trend toward cheaper bandwidth among Tier 1 and Tier 2 providers
    • What sells these networks is the autonomy that comes from having a publicly managed network and that these networks practice net neutrality, while most ISPs do not
  • We are looking to find more in the community to help us with this effort. We’ll be making outreach efforts to various groups including Smith College and Peddle People.
  • We gave our group a formal name: Northampton High-speed Community Network Coalition
  • We reviewed recent progress
    • We are nailing down a meeting time with the Mayor of Northampton to express our concerns. A meeting in the third week of May looks likely.
    • We have completed a draft survey for the Northampton business community and will send it to Suzanne Beck, the executive director for the Northampton Chamber of Commerce. We will ask her advice whether it would be better to survey the chamber’s members before our meeting with the mayor in mid May.
  • We will try to write an OpEd for publishing in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
  • We discussed what would be needed to build such a network. The law requires that:
    • The City Council by a 2/3 vote, vote to create a Municipal Light Plant for the city. This would have to be done over two fiscal years. We believe that the city’s fiscal year runs July through June, so ideally a first vote would be taken this year. This timeline may be too aggressive.
    • Voters must then approve a the creation of a Municipal Light Plant. The earliest opportunity would be on November 6. We don’t know what sort of deadlines are needed to put something like this on the ballot.

You are welcome to join us for our upcoming meetings:

  • We will do a Google Hangout on Tuesday, April 17 at 7 PM. Google Hangout URL.
  • We will meet again in person at Northampton Community TV on Thursday, May 3 at 7PM at NCTV. page. Please let us know if you are coming.

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