Interviews with municipal network study candidates to happen this week

It’s been a while since we posted an update. As you know, City staff have been overwhelmed with work dealing with the covid-19 pandemic. The good news is that the municipal network is still one of the activities moving forward. Funds for a study were approved by the City Council in June 2019. A solicitation to potential vendors was posted in February, before the pandemic started in earnest. In June 2020, the city formed a committee to make a recommendation for selecting a vendor to conduct the study. The committee included four members of our coalition and met on Zoom. 

After discussion among committee members and reference checks by city staff, the top two vendors will now be interviewed virtually. They will be asked about their past practices at conducting surveys and crafting technical engineering proposals, as well as other potential questions. These interviews are scheduled for this Thursday. Based on the feedback, the committee should be able to recommend to the city a proposed vendor to conduct the study.

The pandemic’s demands for distance learning, working from home, and virtual meetings have highlighted the need for all residents to have access to effective high-speed broadband. Based on what we’ve heard from the City, this is ironically helping drive the impetus for creating a municipal network.

Comments 9

  • I’m so glad to see a community forming around this issue. I’d like to help in any way I can!

    • A vendor has been selected and work on surveys has begun. We don’t feel we can announce who yet as the city has not yet made a formal announcement.

      A group of us have been working on this for a few years now. It’s moving forward, just slower than we would like.

      • That’s great news. Thanks to the group for all their hard work. If there will be a need to “recruit” a customer base to ensure the network will be adopted and remunerated, let me know. I’ll go door-to-door if I have to (once COVID is over, that is ;-).

      • I’d be very much interested in staying apprised of developing progress on a city-wide high speed network. I don’t think many people in Hamp are aware that this is being researched. I’m sure many others would be interested, too, if they knew…

        • You are probably right about that. News such as we have it or can disclose it will likely appear here first, but maybe on the city’s website. In general, the Gazette doesn’t seem interested (perhaps due to insufficient staff) to cover the issue unless perhaps there is a major event. We’ve tried to get them interested. We’re not entirely sure how the contractor is going to conduct a survey, but we think a survey will go to every street address in Northampton and a business survey to everyone on the Northampton Chamber of Commerce’s member list.

  • I also am a huge supporter of the plan to move to municipal broadband in Northampton. I’m so tired of Comcast’s poor service, especially in this time of Covid. I use Zoom a lot for work and I am consistently the one who’s image freezes on screen or loses the connection completely. Meanwhile everyone else in eastern MA with FIOS connections or their own municipal broadband services sail along with solid connections. Right now is the perfect time to promote this program for Northampton. Virtually everyone who uses the internet for school classes, business tasks, or just family connection should be anxious for the kinds of improvements a municipal broadband network would provide. I hope you will announce something in the near future so we can volunteer support towards this effort.

    • It’s up to the city to make these announcements, not us, so we’ve not announced anything to not steal their thunder. But I can say a vendor has been selected and has begun work, but I can’t say who. Most likely residents and businesses will get official surveys soon. It’s unclear to me if it will be all residents and businesses, or just a sample. Obviously we hope (and expect) it will get overwhelming support from the Northampton community.

  • @John Goodnough

    Your image freezing or losing a connection would not be the result of Comcast. Comcast experiences outages during upgrades to equipment upstream, but based upon my logging of client’s throughout Northampton, they have not done so in several months. Those issues you are experiencing would be internal to your network, and/or related to the devices. Thereby, I would be investigating, your router, switch, and access points; and the capabilities and configuration therein. Zoom was experiencing issues on its network early on the pandemic, for it was unable to handle the load, some services are still experiencing difficulty, which could be service-wide, or region and therein cloud server specific. Good luck!

    • Mmm. Sorry, but I’m not buying what you’re selling. I have an Apple M1 Macbook that I use at home and at work in Acton, MA. We have a Verizon FIOS connection in Acton. We have the same router in Acton as in Northampton. I’ve yet to see a Zoom connection fail or drop frames in Acton. Here in Northampton on the Comcast network it happens all the time. The main difference is in Acton we have a commercial FIOS symmetrical upload/download connection @ 100 Mbps, both directions. In Northampton it’s asymmetric 100 Mbps download and 12 mbs upload. Zoom tries to compensate for the lower upload speed but there’s a point where it simply can’t maintain both video and audio streams with such a low upload rate. I see it happen all the time. It’s Comcast and the cable modem technology. Also, I’m not referring to an outage. This is under normal operating conditions when Comcast’s network reports normal conditions.

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