Northampton residents overwhelmingly support municipal broadband

Nearly four hours into a lengthy City Council meeting Thursday night, Mayor David Narkewicz reported a set of preliminary statistics from the broadband survey sent to city residents and voters. 2800 residents returned residential surveys, which is 25% of Northampton households. Design Nine, which conducted the survey for the City, reports typical response rates are in the ten to 12% range. This response rate suggests high engagement by city residents. 123 businesses returned surveys too.

The bottom line was hard to miss: Northampton residents and businesses overwhelmingly support municipal broadband. 90% of businesses would either likely or very likely switch to municipal Internet. 98% of residents believe the City should facilitate better and more affordable Internet service. 94% of residents surveyed are very interested in having fiber to the home.

You can hear the mayor’s report below:

Much later in the meeting, which was largely devoted to citizen concerns about defunding the police, the City Council passed the Mayor’s resolution to create a municipal light plant (with some typos corrected) on first reading. The resolution must pass in two fiscal years by a two-thirds or greater vote of the City Council and was first passed in June 2020. No councilors voted against it but not all were present at the vote, which occurred after midnight. You can watch this discussion below:

The Mayor noted that the contractor, Design Nine, should now commence a feasibility study to estimate the costs to construct and maintain a municipal network. The resolution authorizes this next phase of the work. He also noted that a vote by a majority of voters is required to create a municipal light plant, the vehicle which would be used to construct and maintain a municipal network. This vote will likely be included on the November ballot when City elections are scheduled.

We feel that it’s no longer a question of if the city will create a municipal network, but when. It would not have been possible without your enthusiastic support. We are grateful to Northampton residents and businesses for an extra strong demonstration of their support.

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