Friday, July 03, 2015

Willamstown selectman Andy Hogeland proposes "analysis of costs, benefits and project scope for broadband"

Who owns the utility poles in Williamstown? 

Here is an exchange of email among Williamstown Selectman Andrew Hogeland, who also serves on the town's Economic Development Commission, Ben Greenfield, a tech expert hoping to bring high-speed broadband Internet to his Williamstown neighborhood, and others. 

On Fri, Jul 3, 2015 at 5:40 PM, Hogeland <> wrote:

Ben and Bill -

Just to clarify: At the last Selectmen's meeting I proposed that we take on some defined initiatives to focus on for the next 12 months. I don't recall Selectmen having adopted an annual agenda before, but my colleagues seemed receptive and we will be discussing it further at our next meeting. One of the items on my proposed list was to undertake an analysis of the costs, benefits and project scope for broadband so we can have a basis for deciding whether or not to proceed. I expect our list will get finalized during July. The EDC has heard numerous comments on broadband. We are now beginning the process of deciding what suggestions will be carried forward into the EDCs recommendations to the Selectmen. That effort will continue to develop over the summer and into the early fall.

Andy Hogeland

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 3 Jul 2015 18:02:36 -0400
From: Bill Densmore <>
To: Hogeland <>


Thanks to you and the rest of the selectmen for undertaking a deliberative inquiry about broadband. I am discouraged that Time Warner is not a part of the discussion, yet.

WAMC had a piece on the air yesterday which included this key quote:

Mayor Kathy Sheehan says broadband is "...becoming not just a want, but a need, as we look to expanding both educational opportunities, business opportunities and access to what is going on in
the city. We've become so dependent on communicating, using this technology, so we have to be sure that everybody has access."

Remember, broadband speeds, as defined by the FCC -- and as necessary for any reasonable level of quality for streaming video -- is not even offered by Verizon in Williamstown.  The broadband-classified services -- 20 mb or higher -- from Time Warner start I think at $69 a month and that does NOT include symmetrical upload-download speeds.

If we want to be a digital valley, a silicon village, a place that welcomes and embraces knowledge workers, we need to provide services that meet the needs of creators not just consumers of digital information and services. At this point, Time Warner is a monopoly -- unregulated -- supplier of broadband services which are inadequate for that purpose. Time Warner, like other cable suppliers, prices and designs their service to provide for passive consumption of content but no capability to serve or create and share content at broadband speeds.

That's why the town should be actively moving to create or foster competitive service -- or finding a way to regulate Time Warner to up the functionality and pricing of its services.

We are fortunate that in Massachusetts, the telecom duopoly has yet to lobby the Legislature into foreclosing municipal broadband. But they have succeeded elsewhere:

-- bill densmore, Williamstown, Mass.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bill Densmore <>
Date: Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 4:17 PM
Subject: Fwd: Where's Williamstown utility pole right of way documented?
Cc: Bill Densmore <>

To Williamstown Selectmen: 

In exploring questions about broadband, I started asking a few weeks ago these three questions and am hoping the board might be able to forward this inquiry along to someone who can suggest answers or places to go for answers. These are questions that might to relevant to any plans for improving the town's provisioning of the public benefit of increased access to fast broadband.

1) Who controls access to utility poles in Williamstown? Does it depend on the pole? Would it be Verizon? Or National Grid? Or the town? Or the Prudential Committee?  Does the town -- or anyone
-- have a map showing who owns various poles?  Who grants permission to hang fiber wire on the polls? If it is done by an entity of the town, can it be done without payment of an "rent" to the poll owner?  After all, the polls sit on the town right of way at the pleasure of the town.

2) If for some reason Time Warner withdrew from providing services in Williamstown, what would happen to the physical plant on all these polls? Do they own it? Would they have the right to tear
it all down or otherwise disable it? Could they sell it to another operator (such as a town "Muncipal Lighting Plant"?) Might they just abandon it?

3) What would be involved in the town forming an MLP? What's an MLP?

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Monica Webb <>
Date: Sat, Jun 27, 2015 at 7:46 AM
Subject: Re: BROADBAND: Ben Greenfield at work; a Chalmers resource; Time
Warner offer; what the FCC chairman says
To: Bill Densmore <>

Thanks for the update, ​Bill​.

I'm happy to provide guidance on the MLP statute, as WiredWest was the one who
first utilized the statute for telecom only.

Also one of the unfortunate effects of the expensive back haul pricing in our area is that the town of Leverett has to share a gigabit, even though their network is built for each premise to get their own gigabit. Getting more competitive pricing on the MBI middle mile is critical for us in Western Mass so we can afford to provide gigabit connectivity to all premises in our next generation networks.​
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ben Greenfield 
Date: Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 11:00 AM
Subject: Re: BROADBAND: Ben Greenfield at work; a Chalmers resource; Time Warner offer; what the FCC chairman says

Hello Bill and all,

I first want to say that I'm amazed how fast things are moving after years of waiting. I would like to point out that last Monday the Select Board of Williamstown stated that broadband planning has made it on to some sort of todo list. This is great!

Williamstown has an underutillized asset in it's Right of Way. This asset can be harnessed in combination with the new massBroadband123 fiber optic install to put Williamstown internet
infrastructure on par with Singapore.

I know that the select board is interested and I would say that if you want a town owned network where every resident has access I would reach to the people you know on the select board and let them know you think it is valuable effort. I would also point out that the Economic Development Committee hears that broadband could be better but hasn't heard it enough to be convinced it is an issue according to this iBerkshires article.


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