Coalition meeting update

The Northampton High-speed Community Network Coalition met last night to assess our progress and figure out where to go from here. The obvious topic of discussion: Mayor Narkewicz’s recent decision to add funds to the city’s capital plan to study the costs and viability of a community network for our city. It kind of came out of the blue because the mayor has been very quiet with us and on this issue since we met with him last May.

So some change in tactics and strategies is in order. Some of our decisions:

  • We will speak at today’s City Council meeting in support of this study’s funding in the capital fund, and to thank Mayor Narkewicz. We have two speakers lined up. If you get there before the meeting, there is a sign up sheet where you get up to three minutes to get your say too.
  • We will provide the mayor and city CIO Antonio Pagan with a list the requirements we would like to see included in a community network within the next few weeks. These include:
    • 1gbps fiber available to every home and business in the city
    • Availability of a lower access speed at a lower price for those with less bandwidth requirements, in the range of 200-250mbps.
    • Consider providing a low-bandwidth “free” rate for documented financially challenged households, such as those receiving food stamps, Section VIII housing vouchers or where children receive subsidized school lunches. Comcast has a similar plan but charges $9.95/month plus taxes.
    • Net neutrality, so no content provider gets favored access
    • Privacy. The network should not track what sites you go to on the web, unless there is a court order. In the event of a court order, it should only track IPs of suspects covered by the court order.
    • Offer an Internet telephony bundle for extra cost, to ease the transition of residents that want to switch to the network
    • If allowed with the city’s contract with Comcast, provide bundles of streaming services for Internet content to popular sources such as news, entertainment and sports channels. This too will ease the transition to the network for many residents.
    • Endorse putting up a free city Wifi in the downtown areas
  • Continue outreach to those members of the City Council that we have not yet spoken to or have not “touched base” with in a while. In particular, inform members of the City Council why emerging 5G cellular technologies does not obviate the need for a community network. There is a lot of disinformation going on about this.
  • Use email lists and social media to broadcast our available to community groups as speakers to discuss this initiative
  • Stop actively gathering paper petition signatures. We have about 500 at the moment between online and paper signatures. We can gather plenty more downtown if needed, but it seems unnecessary.
  • Ask the Chamber of Commerce to publish our survey for businesses so this feedback can be used to guide the study’s parameters.

We didn’t have a public place to meet yesterday. For our next meeting we should be able to get a room at Northampton High School. We will publicize the date and time when we have it booked.

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