High Speed Internet Four towns opt for Charter broadband Year long project will start after permitting
Four additional Berkshires towns will opt to obtain long-awaited broadband internet service from a private company, courtesy of a $4.4 million state incentive.
The Massachusetts Broadband Institute announced Wednesday that officials in Egremont, Hancock, Peru and Tyringham have agreed to join a program devised last year that subsidizes network construction by cable companies. Charter Communications will receive $4,420,000 from the institute to provide high-speed connections to the four towns, as well as the community of Princeton in Worcester County. The money comes from a bond authorization approved by the state Legislature. For Egremont, the Charter deal sets up a rivalry between two ventures, since Fiber Connect is already on the ground there creating a network it expects to debut as early as this summer. “I’m just very glad. This is another milestone,” said Jeffrey Lazarus of Egremont’s technology committee said of the Charter agreement. “I’m hoping that reasonable internet broadband is in our future.”
The Charter buildout will reach 3,600 premises in the five towns. The deal moves the MBI closer to its goal of closing the digital divide in the 19 Berkshires communities it identified as unserved in early 2016. More broadly, the MBI says that out of 53 communities listed as unserved in Central and Western Massachusetts, 46 of them have completed a buildout, landed a last-mile grant for an approved project or are considering what the group terms “a viable option to close the broadband gap.”
Charter agreed to the MBI’s requirement that it reach 96 percent of premises in each of the towns. The company says it plans to offer customers the option of purchasing a package of TV, data and phone options through its Spectrum service. The Charter agreement had to be approved by Select Boards in each of the towns. By opting for broadband through a private company, the towns will not have to devote local taxpayer dollars to a network project. In a June vote, residents of Peru strongly backed the Charter option over owning their own network, a move embraced by state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru.
Mark has told The Eagle he believes he’s the only lawmaker without a home broadband connection. “I couldn’t be more excited for my hometown of Peru to be on the verge of full connectivity,” he said in a statement provided by the MBI. Other towns are in the process of building municipally owned networks, paid for through a combination of state grants and local government borrowing. The MBI has so far allocated nearly $16 million to 18 towns pursuing that option. Towns in Berkshire County going that route include Alford, Otis and Mount Washington. Charter is expected to complete construction in the four Berkshires towns within a year of obtaining permits and clearance from the phone and power companies for access to utility poles. That timetable keeps it behind Fiber Connect in Egremont. That privately owned company, one of three that pitched to provide service in the town, has already obtained pole access from the utilities, according to Lazarus. “They’re moving along,” he said of Fiber Connect.
The town’s Select Board this week granted the company, run by Adam Chait, a key approval. Lazarus noted Charter will have to play catch-up. “That is a bit of a process,” he said of gaining access to utility poles. “So that’s going to take a while.” Chait could not be reached for comment. The Charter deal announced Wednesday mirrors one reached last August, when the MBI provided financial incentives to Charter to supply broadband coverage in three other Berkshires communities it had never sought to serve. Those towns include Hinsdale, Lanesborough and West Stockbridge. In a May visit, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito toured West Stockbridge to speak with new Charter customers and to celebrate their administration’s broadband push.
That earlier Charter project is expected to be completed next year. In a release, Baker and Polito said this week the latest deal improves the odds for economic success in the towns. Reach staff writer Larry Parnass at 413-496-6214 or @larryparnass. If you’d like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please
Superfast broadband is now reaching nine out ten premises in Wales – transforming the digital landscape despite failing to meet the original 96% target. Since 2014 the increase in access to superfast net speeds has been dramatic for some North Wales counties. In Conwy it went from a shockingly low 5% of premises with access in July 2014 to close to 90% today while in Denbighshire it went from 38% to 81% over the same period.
Every county now has between 80% and 90% access rates (Source: thinkbroadband) – although this remains below the 96% target originally set by the Welsh Government under Superfast Cymru. This improvement has been crucial for the digital economy – opening up opportunities for businesses and making the area more attractive for hi-tech firms looking to relocate.
Percentage of premises able to access fast broadband. Source: thinkbroadband
- Conwy: 88%(5% in 2014)
- Gwynedd: 81% (57%)
- Denbighshire: 81% (38%)
- Anglesey: 80% (58%)
- Flintshire: 89% (77%)
- Wrexham 90% (52%)
Paul Roberts, who founded tech firms Stockomendation and Risc IT Solutions in Llandudno, said the expansion in net speeds was creating opportunities.
We can compete nationally
He said: “Having worked in the digital world in Wales, since 2000 starting Wales first cloud business Risc IT Solutions to now also founding Wales first Fintech 50 business, Stockomendation, I have seen first-hand the changes increased broadband speeds and bandwidth have made to our technology businesses.
“The roll-out of Superfast broadband has increased the adoption of Cloud services supplied by Risc IT Solutions across the UK and not just Wales and continues to expand our reach.
Paul Roberts from Stockomendation
“This has meant quicker access to the increased amounts of data businesses hold, the ability to work from mobile, laptops or tablets and greater security through off site Cloud backup and virtual servers.
“It also allows new ground breaking financial technology companies like Stockomendation to not be tied to central locations like London, so we can compete nationally and internationally with the added bonus of having a fantastic lifestyle living and working in the beauty of North Wales.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Superfast Cymru is making good progress.
“At the end of March over 645,000 premises across Wales were able to access superfast broadband as a result. BT has confirmed it expects to deliver 30Mbps download speeds to around 690,000 premises before the programme closes at the end of December 2017.
‘Whole counties would have no superfast broadband’
“Whole counties such as Gwynedd, Conwy and Anglesey would have no superfast broadband at all without the intervention of Superfast Cymru.
“The most recent Ofcom report showed that Wales has the best superfast broadband availability amongst the devolved nations, with over eight out ten premises with access. This compares with just over half in 2014.
“We are currently consulting on the next stage where we are looking at the final few percent of premises not covered by the Superfast Cymru rollout or by the telecommunications companies’ own plans.
“The consultation is the result of detailed research and includes a list of potential premises without superfast broadband. We would urge those currently without access to take part in this consultation.”
Better overall approach needed
Mike Learmond, FSB North Wales Development Manager, said: “Whilst customers that have benefitted from upgrades to service are seeing the difference, the fact remains that not all businesses are seeing an improved service.
Openreach Engineer laying fibre in a duct as part of BT’s ?2.5bn super-fast broadband programme.
“We need a much better overall approach to digital connectivity which can work to address gaps across networks and providers.
“For example, it is frustrating for businesses that may have access to superfast broadband, but no mobile phone signal or 4G capability when they leave the office.
“Also, now that the infrastructure is in place there is still more work to do to encourage businesses to engage with Superfast Cymru in order to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Fibre broadband.”
Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said: “Digital connectivity was once a nice-to-have. It is now essential. And we have come a long way in Wales.
“Thanks to the UK Government’s ?66.9million investment in superfast broadband in Wales, over 645,000 Welsh homes and businesses can now get access to superfast broadband, and an additional 80,000 premises are expected to benefit from this investment by the end of 2017.
“But we need to keep the UK moving with the demands of the digital age.
“Our tremendous progress to date in Wales, coupled with the ?400m funding available through the new Digital Infrastructure Fund will equip Welsh businesses with the tools they need to grow, and Welsh homes with the technology to be part of our online global community.”
From 2018 the Welsh Government will be working on how to reach the final few per cent of premises without access to superfast broadband. So that this work is as accurate as possible it needs to hear from those not yet connected.
A list of potential premises has been published and is open for comments until July 13.
An interactive map can help residents and businesses check if they are already included on the list.
The Welsh Government also wants to hear from communities who have an interest in driving their own solutions. Consultation at https://consultations.gov.wales/consultations/next-generation-access-broadband
Sky Broadband users in the area could be without the internet until tomorrow morning. As we reported earlier today the outage struck just before midday, and was the second time issues with Sky broadband have affected customers this week, with internet connectivity going down for several hours on Saturday. Sky issued a few updates through the day, with the latest stating repairs will continue through the evening and into tomorrow morning:
Sky say: “Engineers remain onsite and due to the complexity of the repair, works are likely to continue overnight.
We’ll provide an update on this page as soon as possible.
We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused”
The ‘fibre cable break’ is affecting large parts of North Wales and Cheshire, with the full massive list of affected areas being given as: “Flint, Holywell, Mostyn, Rhyl, Wrexham North, Heswall, Irby, Hoylake, Abergele, Amlwch, Bangor, Bethesda, Holyhead, Llanfairfechan, Llangefni, Llanberis, Llanwnda, Menai Bridge, Old Colwyn, Penygroes, Port Dinorwic, Tynygongl, Valley, Buckley, Chester Central, Kelsall, Mickle Trafford, Tarporley, Tarvin, Aberconwy, Colwyn Bay Central, Llandudno, Llanrwst, Penmaenmawr, Rhuddlan, Rhos on Sea, St Asaph, Wrexham, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Caernarfon Caergwrle, Dolgellau, Llangollen, Nefyn, Porthmadog, Pwllheli, Ruabon, and Rhosllanerchrugog”.