Broadband Communities

MAR-APR 2018

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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COMMUNITY BROADBAND | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 Whip City Fiber Delivers Gigabit Service A 118-year-old utility in a 349-year-old city is bringing the most up-to-date technology to its citizens and neighboring Western Massachusetts towns. By Ryan Cawley / SpryPoint W estfield Gas + Electric (WG+E) in Western Massachusetts has been privileged to serve the citizens of Westfield for 118 years. Following the failed efforts of private investors years earlier, the city fathers decided to keep the utility alive and purchase it outright, with a mission to provide the residents and businesses of Westfield with reliable gas for lighting and heat. A community-owned public power provider, WG+E is staffed by individuals who live in the community and have a strong interest in making Westfield – a city of about 41,000 that was first settled in 1669 – a better place to live. WG+E is directly accountable to its ratepayers, and it reinvests profits in its distribution systems and in the community itself. Customers benefit from lower rates, local service, in-kind work for the city and contributions to local community programs and services. WHY FIBER? e genesis of WG+E's fiber plans came more than 20 years ago, when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed electric utilities to invest in their own telecommunications systems. Because cable television costs were rising, WG+E envisioned constructing and operating a hybrid fiber-coax cable television system and utilizing excess fiber to reduce the telecommunications costs for networking its distribution equipment and to provide low-cost networking connectivity to municipal facilities. ough WG+E never did enter the cable television market, it constructed fiber optic cable through the city, providing utility and municipal connectivity. WG+E started offering internet, lit fiber and dark fiber services to commercial and industrial customers as an added value. A move into fiber aligned well with the traditional business at WG+E. It combined smart-grid connectivity, automated meter reading and community broadband on the same network, strengthening the business case for further investment in all these initiatives. rough its long-standing relationship with gas and electric customers, WG+E was well aware of strong community support for expanding low-cost, municipally owned internet throughout the city. Out of that existing fiber investment, a new effort was launched to bring a world-class, dedicated fiber-to-the-home network to Westfield. In 2014, after significant local market research, WG+E presented an initial proposal to its governing body, the Municipal Light Board (MLB), defining a project to bring fiber to Westfield. e proposal outlined a business case built around the community benefits that would result from the initiative. High- speed internet would encourage commercial investment and economic development, reduce customer entertainment costs, increase property values and make the community a more attractive place for families to settle. e MLB approved a one-year, proof-of-concept,

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