WiredWest to present broadband solution workshop
Florence — WiredWest, the Municipal Light Plant cooperative made up of 27 member towns in western Massachusetts, will hold a workshop for interested town officials on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 9:30 a.m. at the John F. Kennedy Middle School. During the workshop, the organization will present, for the first time, a regional solution for operation of a broadband fiber-to-the-home network in any unserved towns in western Massachusetts that choose to join. WiredWest will also inform town officials of the actual costs to their subscribers under the plan.
Over the past year, as member towns have worked their ways through the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) Readiness Assessment process, WiredWest has explored options to operate those networks on a regional basis. While MBI policy states that each town must own its individual network, many towns have made it clear that they want and need their networks to be operated on a regional basis in order to achieve cost efficiencies, provide customers with affordable rates for services, and assure their long-term sustainability. Many of the towns have little or no interest in running the operations due to lack of resources, expertise and institutional knowledge of the telecommunications industry.
WiredWest has maintained that the lowest cost to subscribers will be achieved through a regional management structure that takes advantage of the inherent cost savings gained through regionalization. The plan to be presented at Saturday’s workshop is an example of intermunicipal cooperation, collaboration and regional service delivery as prescribed in Sections 240 & 241 of the Municipal Modernization Act of 2016.
The WiredWest regional solution is designed to allow for essential services such as internet service provider, network operations, billing, customer service, maintenance and others to be provided by and contracted with an existing entity already engaged in providing the services in Massachusetts under a WiredWest umbrella. The organization is in negotiations and is close to finalizing an agreement with an established regional vendor. In addition to providing essential services to towns and subscribers, WiredWest will be responsible for handling other Municipal Light Plant responsibilities for member towns including pole licensing, rental and insurance.
Based on its negotiations and cost estimates for other MLP costs, the WiredWest board of directors has unanimously approved a new pricing plan that it feels will be both attractive to consumers and competitive with what they have today. Towns will only be individually responsible for debt incurred in building their town-owned infrastructures and for their depreciation reserves. Each town will have the option of adding surcharges to subscriber bills to cover some or all of the costs.
The workshop will be WiredWest’s first opportunity to present its solution to town leaders in a public forum. Towns will have the opportunity to calculate the actual costs to their subscribers and each town will be provided with documentation and spreadsheets for further study and follow-up questions.