After A Decade Of Waiting For Verizon, Town Builds Itself Gigabit Fiber For $75 Per Month
from the if-you-build-it-they-will-come dept
Like many broadband black holes, Western Massachusetts has spent years asking regional duopolies for broadband. Towns like Leverett, Mass. literally took to hanging signs around town begging Verizon to install even the slowest DSL. Of course Verizon not only refused to install Western Massachusetts, they froze deployment of effectively all FiOS fiber upgrades, leaving a large number of towns and cities (including Boston, Baltimore, Alexandria, Buffalo) without next-gen broadband — or in some cases broadband at all.
But, unlike many areas, Western Massachusetts decided to do something about it. In 2012 Leverett voters approved borrowing $3.6 million — or roughly $1,900 per resident — to deliver fiber to 800 premises. The initiative would be part of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute’s MassBroadband 123 “middle mile” network, a stimulus-funded project that spent the last few years running 1,200 miles of fiber-optic network connecting 123 communties. That project feeds the town of Leverett’s new, community owned ISP LeverettNet, giving a town that once didn’t have DSL gigabit speeds for $75 a month:
“LeverettNet currently charges $24.95 per month for an internet-only, 1 gigabit per second connection. There?s also a $49.95 monthly cost to cover the maintenance for the Leverett Municipal Light Plant (LMLP), the governmental entity that builds and operates the town?s fiber infrastructure, bringing the cost to about $75 for internet-only subscribers, a cut above Google Fiber?s $70 monthly price for its 1 gigabit service.
However, the Leverett Broadband Committee notes that the LMLP maintenance costs are divided between the number of subscribers, and could be lowered as more households subscribe, meaning it could one day reach a price that?s equal to or less than Google Fiber.”
And while most incumbent ISPs are abusing the lack of competition to raise rates in January, Leverettnet (alongside Crocker Communications, which helps run the ISP business itself) has announced it’s dropping the cost of broadband and phone services starting next month. Uptake rate has been phenomenal, with eighty-one percent of households signing up for service. And what’s more, despite all of the hand-wringing on some fronts (read: AT&T, Verizon, Comcast) about community broadband being an irresponsible fiscal nightmare, locals will actually see lower taxes than expected:
“The median residence will also see a lower-than-anticipated impact on property taxes, with $219 per year for the financing bond to build the network, much lower than the original estimate of close to $300 per year. The light plant, along with Holyoke Gas and Electric, which provides network operation and maintenance, and Crocker Communications of Greenfield, providing the high-speed Internet and phone service, collaborated to review the finances and usage and determined that the adjustments could be made.”
Granted in twenty states, your town or city wouldn’t be able to do this, since incumbent providers have quite literally paid state legislatures to write laws banning this kind of effort, even if incumbent ISPs have refused to service the area. This is also the sort of thing Presidential candidates like Marco Rubio hope to put an end to, without offering an alternative solution for broadband coverage gaps. But as Leverettnet shows, there’s an obvious role for private/public partnerships in shoring up broadband coverage gaps — especially in areas incumbent providers couldn’t care less about.