City is modeling municipal network cost options

On Thursday, our coalition met virtually with Mayor Sciarra. The Mayor thanked our coalition for helping move a municipal network forward. She brought us up to date on where the city is on creating a municipal network.

Here are some highlights from our meeting:

  • A feasibility study is due shortly from Design Nine. The City requested various options to be explored in the report based on different factors and assumptions. One assumption is that the network should have a redundant architecture, so that if one connection is cut another could be used. With a full set of options and cost estimates, Mayor Sciarra will choose an option for the City to advance. We look forward to reviewing the report and giving feedback on it when it is made available.
  • The City is working hard to find additional funding sources for the network. The Mayor emphasized that the next fiscal year’s budget may be very tight, so she can’t commit to an allocation amount at this time. The City has reached out to Senator Markey’s office to see what federal funds are available. The City is also checking to see what state funds could be used.
  • Northampton voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of the City creating a municipal light plant in the November 2021 city election. The next step is for the City to file a request with the state to establish it. It is not expected that the state will object.
  • The City agrees that the network should be financially self-sustaining and not a burden on the City’s general revenues. To facilitate this, the city would need to create an enterprise fund (which is different from a general capital fund). It would operate similarly to the Water Department’s enterprise fund, which sustains itself based on revenues from those it services.
  • The City is aiming to provide a minimum 1 gigabit per second connection to all service points
  • The Mayor intends to keep our coalition involved, as her initiative moves forward

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