Mount Washington, Massachusetts, is set to light up its new Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network this month. By “building our own Fiber-to-the-Home broadband network, we are taking an important step in securing our community’s long-term vitality and sustainability,” says Selectboard Member Gail Garrett.
Mount Washington is nestled within the forested Taconic Mountains area located in the southwest corner of the state. The roughly 150 full-time residents have been frustrated with the lack of connectivity. “Everybody’s had it with their current connections” said Garret and believes the town “deserves the same opportunity to connect to the internet as those in larger communities.”
The final estimates for the network came in at $603,000 but the town planned for any unanticipated make ready or dig costs and prepared for a high estimate of $650,000. To fund construction, Mount Washington authorized the use of $250,000 from their stabilization fund in 2015, received $230,000 in federal and state funds from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) earlier this year, and established a plan to borrow the remaining $400,000 through a state loan program. This spring, received an additional $222,000 grant from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, which will allow them to pay down the debt sooner and have the network paid off within five years.
The FTTH network is set to provide residents who opted in, over 60 percent of the town, with up to 1 gigabit of upload and download speeds. To opt in, residents deposited $300 per household and committed themselves to three years of data and telephone service on the FTTH network.
According to Mount Washington’s Broadband Business Plan, the town will be charging $75.00 monthly to subscribers for access to the FTTH network. Internet Service Provider (ISP), Crocker Communications, has contracted with the town to provide Internet and telephone service over the network and will be charging subscribers $44.95 per month. Overall, the subscribers will be charged $119.95 monthly and the ISP will remit $75.00 per subscriber, per month, back to the Town to cover all maintenance and operation costs.
Like many other rural communities, Mount Washington suffered for decades from lack of investment from incumbents. Residents relied on a patchwork of DSL, dial-up, and expensive satellite. Degraded infrastructure made Internet access almost impossible and negatively impacted voice services. Many times rainfall would wipe out their ability to make a simple phone call.
“[Ninety eight] connections are planned, a number that keeps climbing as the start date nears. The town has 146 premises that are candidates for broadband connections, including Town Hall and the highway department”, Garrett told the Berkshire Eagle. The project had been temporarily slowed due to delays in make ready work on the utility poles, but Mount Washington expects the network to go live mid-October.
According to Garrett, one side benefit of the FTTH network has been the increased interest in real estate in Mount Washington and houses on the market have been selling. According to a 2015 study funded by the Fiber Broadband Association (formerly Fiber to the Home Council) in conjunction with the University of Colorado and Carnegie Mellon, fiber connected homes jump approximately $5,400 in value.
“We’ve had great interest because of broadband,” Garrett said.
How does Garrett feel now that her town is close to realizing its vision? She told us:
“It was very time consuming working through the details…but we are almost there and I can’t wait to have a reliable, fast Internet connection!!”
Gail Garrett joined Christopher Mitchell and Lisa Gonzalez for episode 212 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast in the summer of 2016 to describe the project and why they felt it was necessary to invest in their own infrastructure. We’ve been following Mount Washington since 2015; check out our other stories.