Use American Rescue Plan funds to build a municipal network?

The City of Northampton will receive $21,747,984 from the federal government to use to address issues due to the covid-19 pandemic. Potentially some or all of this money could be used to construct a municipal network, since the law allows these funds to be used for (among other things) investments in broadband infrastructure.

During the Covid pandemic, the inadequacy of our existing broadband infrastructure became clear, as millions of people around the country had to transition to remote work and remote school. Many households lacked an internet connection for students to participate in school. Many others that did have internet, lacked the speed to make a successful video call, or sustain one for the duration of the school day. Many homes with school aged children had insufficient speeds to handle multiple simultaneous video calls for school and work. Many neighborhoods had insufficient bandwidth to handle every home trying to place video calls simultaneously. 

A municipal network would likely deliver ten times the download speed and 100 times the upload speed of existing service. The network could and should be built to handle the amount of bandwidth each neighborhood should have available to handle peak usage needs during emergencies, and be made available to every household at an affordable price, with subsidies available to the lowest income residents. Everyone should have access to fast affordable internet.

The City is looking for your input, so please spend fifteen minutes or so filling out the survey. And if you agree that using the money for building out a municipal network is a good idea, make sure to prioritize it on Question 15.

Of course, there are lots of other valid uses for this money and no lack of needs in Northampton. We hope you’ll advocate to use at least some of it to build a municipal network.

It is currently unclear how much it will cost for the construction of a municipal network. A study is currently underway to determine how much it would cost. If the city decides to use American Rescue Plan funds and therefore the construction of the proposed network is not financed, or minimally financed, it could lessen the fees that would be charged to use the network.

Please take the survey and give the city your thoughts on how to best spend this one-time windfall.

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