Easthampton to vote on creating Municipal Light Plant

Today’s Gazette has a story updating readers on Easthampton’s efforts to create a municipal network. The lede is that voters in Easthampton will vote on whether to create a municipal light plant (MLP) for the city at the November election. A MLP is a relatively easy way for Massachusetts cities and towns to create a legal structure for creating municipal networks.

To reach this stage, Easthampton had two successful votes by its city council to create a MLP over two fiscal years. Each city council vote required at least a two-thirds vote in favor by the City Council.

If approved by the voters in November, there should be no legal impediments for creating an Easthampton municipal network. If a plan is in place that could be quickly executed, construction could start in early 2020.

Easthampton is looking at a variety of funding mechanisms, including a public/private partnership and partnering with other local communities that already have broadband to share expenses.

Here is Northampton, we are expecting the city to release a RFP (Request for Proposal) soon to study the feasibility of a municipal network. Our city council approved funding the study in July. The mayor has tasked the city’s Chief Information Officer, Antonio Pagan, to issue the RFP. The mayor asked that our coalition be allowed to review and give input to the RFP.

The point of a feasibility study is to see how many residents and businesses would subscribe to a municipal network. If the results of the study look good, the mayor might ask the City Council to allocate funds for an engineering study to better determine the cost of a Northampton municipal network this fiscal year. Funds for the engineering study are currently planned in Fiscal Year 2021, starting July 1, 2020. If the Northampton City Council also votes in favor creating a MLP in two fiscal years, Northampton voters could be asked to approve the creation of our own MLP in the November 2020 election.

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