Plainfield network construction starts July 15

Plainfield, Massachusetts plans to start construction of its municipal network on July 15th. The network will be built by Whip City Fiber of Westfield, the Municipal Light Plant created by the City of Westfield. All homes signed up should be online by early next year. Note: this information comes from an article on page B1 of the Daily Hampshire Gazette for June 26, 2019. As of this writing, the article is not linked on their website.

Plainfield’s “take rate” so far is excellent. 213 customers out of a potential 360 customers have signed up, agreeing to pay $85/month for the service. They will get fiber to the home (or business), with symmetrical 1 gigabit per second upload/download speed. There is no additional cost to bring fiber to the home for these subscribers.

The Gazette article has an interesting quote from the article from Kimberly Longey, Plainfield’s municipal light plant manager:

Plainfield is building this network to ensure the very survivability of our town. Without broadband, we’ve lost population and business owners struggle to compete.

This is a $2.8M project. $650,000 of the funding will be supplied by a grant from the Massachusetts “Last Mile” broadband program.

While things are moving quickly, Plainfield has been working on this project for 13 years. Still, we can’t help but be a little jealous as this comes rapidly to completion. Here in Northampton, our City Council is expected to approve funding for the first phase of a study of a Northampton Municipal Network in July. We believe the first phase will just see if enough subscribers will be willing to join a municipal network. A 33% “take rate” is generally the lowest rate needed to prove it is viable.

Plainfield has no viable high-speed options at present. In Northampton we have Comcast’s “high-speed” service, which is massively overpriced and generally doesn’t meet the definition of “high-speed” anymore. While 1 gigabit per second is available from Comcast, it’s an “up to” speed, costs $104.95/month and that’s a download rate only. The upload rate is considerably slower. Of course, Comcast does not offer fiber to the home (FTTH).

We hope the mayor and the City Council can be persuaded to speed up the study. We would be shocked if there is not an acceptable “take rate” in Northampton. Administering a professional survey to find out should come at well under the $30,000 planned for this part of the study in FY 2020, which starts July 1, 2019.

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