Plainfield takes steps to build community network. Worthington works on complete coverage of Comcast-built network.

Both Plainfield and Worthington in the hilltowns have been passed over by the internet age. Internet connectivity required dialup modems over telephone lines … so 1990s and sizzling speeds up to 56 kilobits per second. DSL lines are also an option at 128k kilobits per second to 3 megabits per second, depending on how far you are from the phone company’s switch.

Both town though are solving their access problem, but in different ways.

Plainfield recently approved spending $400,000 to build a municipal network. This wasn’t their first vote for a municipal network. In 2015 they approved $1,500,000 toward such an effort. It wasn’t enough. Remarkably, despite the inaccurate earlier estimates, the 133 of the 471 registered voters at the town meeting voted unanimously to approve the extra funding. The network is being built by Westfield Gas & Electric, a.k.a. Whip City Fiber which we visited last April. When complete, the network will provide a fiber optic high-speed connection to every home and business.

In Worthington, the town expects to complete its network in 2020. Their network will be built by Comcast. Notably, the only reason Comcast is building the network is because of a $2.2M grant the town was given by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. The challenge is to get service to 100% of its residents. Current plans call for 97.7% access.

While the town of Plainfield will own its network, Worthington will not. Comcast will manage the network and can charge whatever it wants to with no competition, despite the heavy subsidy from the state. Some Worthington residents may prefer to move to Plainfield for the likely lower costs there once their network is completed.

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