City Council approves in concept study of Northampton Municipal Network

Note: This post was updated to note the City Council’s approval was in concept.

Last night, the Northampton City Council approved in concept funding for a study of a Northampton municipal network. The issue was discussed as part of Mayor Narkewicz’s capital fund plan, which was presented to the Council last night. By approving the mayor’s capital plan in concept, the study for the community network was also approved in concept too, as it is included in the plan. The study allocates $80,000 over fiscal years 2020 and 2021 for this study. FY 2020 starts July 1, 2019.

During the meeting, advocates for the network gave brief statements to the City Council as part of a normal citizen input process. Lee Feldscher and Ryan Cheevers-Brown spoke for the Northampton High-speed Community Network Coalition. At the start of the meeting, two other residents voiced support for the idea by speaking to the City Council.

Lee submitted nearly five hundred electronic and paper petition signatures for a community network gathered by the coalition over the last few months, as well as thanked the mayor for allocating money for this study in the capital fund.

Ryan spoke about emerging 5G cellular technology and why it would not address the needs of a community network. You can view the video below. Lee’s presentation starts at around 36:30.

Before Lee spoke, other members of the public in attendance also rose to support this initiative. Later in the meeting, the City Council voted to approve in concept the mayor’s proposed capital plan.

Mayor Narkewicz thanked the coalition for their advocacy. He plans to reach out to our coalition in the weeks ahead.

The coalition wishes to thank the many residents of Northampton who signed our petition. In addition, we want to acknowledge some key players who helped move this initiative forward:

  • Northampton Community TV, and its executive director Al Williams, our first supporter. NCTV also allowed us to use its studio space for coalition meetings.
  • The Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce and its director Suzanne Beck, who also provided early support and advocacy of this initiative with the mayor.
  • Paradise Copies and its founder Carol MacColl who provided graphic design services, a banner and a thousand brochures for free as part of our outreach effort.
  • Jeromie Whalen, an AV instructor at Northampton High School, and his class of students who created videos used to promote this initiative.
  • Carl Townsend, a resident of Bear Hill Estates in Florence. Carl is a former survey professional and helped the coalition create quality residential and business surveys that can be used to study this effort.

This is but the first step to making a community network for Northampton a reality, but an important and key hurdle. The Northampton community will need to stay engaged on this effort in the months and years ahead to see it to completion.

So far the Daily Hampshire Gazette has not picked up this story. We spoke with a Gazette reporter on our work on Monday. Hopefully they will publish an article about this soon.

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