Colrain board has questions on broadband network plans

 

By DIANE BRONCACCIO
Recorder Staff
Thursday, November 26, 2015
(Published in print: Friday, November 27, 2015)

COLRAIN — The Board of Selectmen has turned to its legislators for help in navigating the channels of information coming from both WiredWest, the municipal collective trying to build a regional “last-mile” fiber-optic broadband network, and the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, which holds the purse-strings to grant money for such a network — regardless of whether it is built by WiredWest or by some other entity.

“We have received little direction from MBI and conflicting information from our delegates to WiredWest,” selectmen said, in a letter that was sent this week to Sen. Stan Rosenberg and to Rep. Paul Mark. “It often appears the entire process is mired in a continued negotiation between the two groups that is, at least somewhat, politically driven. The result is continued confusion at the local level rendering the decision-making process for the Selectmen as daunting.”

The letter goes on to ask seven questions of the legislators:

∎ When will an MBI review of the WiredWest business plan be released?

∎ Must the town maintain ownership of the infrastructure being built within its borders? Selectmen said they heard second-hand that towns must retain ownership, but the WiredWest agreement being distributed to towns says that the towns will own a share of the regional network. And if the town should someday withdraw from WiredWest, its share of the network would be sold to other member towns.

∎ Since the towns must arrange for financing its $2.4 million share of the overall $3.6 million infrastructure cost in town, board member want to know when will they need to borrow the money. The town wants to know how to schedule this expense, to better plan for financing.

∎ When does the town have to select its Internet Service Provider? WiredWest, which is planning to be the ISP for the regional broadband network, has said the town should make a selection by June 2016. “MBI has told us we do not have to make a decision at this time or in the near future” says the letter.

∎ “Is it advisable or even allowable” for towns to finance the infrastructure but turn over ownership to WiredWest in order to be a member?

∎ What does MBI mean by the term “regional build” and how would this process work? “Does this mean nothing happens until all towns involved commit to the build?”

∎ “Some towns appear to be leagues ahead in the process. What is the criteria for prioritizing projects on a town-by-town basis?”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277