Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2015

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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14 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 FTTH DEPLOYMENT LeverettNet Launches Fiber-to-the-Home Service A small rural town fnds a way to provide itself with a world-class gigabit network. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities F or a decade, while fber to the home and high-speed cable were rolled out in the heavily populated eastern half of Massachusetts, residents of Western Massachusetts watched and waited for their turn. Yet today, Western Massachusetts remains a broadband desert – many towns in this sparsely populated area still have no broadband service at all. However, the region is at a turning point, and the town of Leverett is leading the way. Broadband stimulus funds enabled the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), a state agency, to build a middle-mile network throughout the western half of the state. Tis network, MassBroadband 123, was completed in early 2014 and now connects anchor institutions in 123 communities to the Internet. Te availability of middle-mile fber at last made broadband thinkable in the western region – but still didn't make it commercially viable. So the state government decided to subsidize a last- mile buildout in unserved and partially served towns, allocating $40 million (about 40 percent of the required funds) to the 45 unserved towns for municipal builds and promising additional – as yet undetermined – funding for public- private partnerships in the 10 partially served towns. MBI administers these last-mile funds and provides technical assistance. Most of the unserved towns banded together in a cooperative called WiredWest that plans to build a single, unifed FTTH network. WiredWest has been collecting customer pledges, and its member towns have been creating local broadband utilities ("municipal light plants," in Massachusetts parlance) and voting to authorize bonding for their shares of the network. However, as of this writing, the cooperative's future is in doubt; on December 1, MBI wrote to local ofcials to say it would not fund WiredWest under its current draft operating agreement, which it called "not compatible with the best interests of the commonwealth, the towns or their residents." WiredWest has disputed the MBI fndings. Long before WiredWest's current difculties, one Western Massachusetts town, Leverett, decided not to wait for the other towns but to move forward with its own municipal fber network, now called LeverettNet. Although Leverett is too small to operate a network efciently on its own – its total population is less than 2,000, and there are few businesses – local ofcials doubted that WiredWest's larger scale would ofer any signifcant advantage. Tey thought a better approach would be to contract with existing local operators that could manage the network and provide services. Leverett had two important things in its favor: First, there was already strong local support for better broadband; the town had signed on to participate in the MassBroadband 123 project at an early stage and had assisted MBI's eforts to obtain federal funding. Second, residents who had deep expertise in relevant subjects, including capital project management,

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