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Leverett townwide broadband set for 2014

— The Select Board has agreed to sign a $2.7 million contract to build a fiber-optic line connecting every home and business in town, the first town in the region to offer high-speed Internet and telephone service to every resident.

G4S, the Florida-based technology corporation that also designed Leverett’s fiber-to-the-home network, was selected from eight bidders to build the project, which will be town owned. With a system operations and maintenance provider yet to be selected, service is expected to be ready sometime in 2014.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Selectman Peter D’Errico. “We’re happy to pass this milestone.” The municipally owned network, for which Town Meeting last spring voted to borrow as much as $3.6 million, will connect with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute’s $71.6 million MassBroadband 123 “middle mile network.”

Also being built by G4S and due to be available in town in June, the network will provide subscribers with 1 gigabit-per-second connections, allowing for businesses that use computer servers as part of their Internet-based operation, as well as streaming of videos and voice-over Internet telephone.

Leverett’s first-of-its kind network is being built with the help of a $40 million state bond, $47 million in federal stimulus funding and the town’s willingness to borrow to build infrastructure to attract service.

D’Errico said the cost of the project should be lower than $300 a year per median $278,000 property owner over 20 years.

Leverett’s broadband committee, which had recommended G4S to the Select Board, has already begun drafting a request for proposals to operate and maintain the network, and it will also move ahead with seeking a clerk of the works to oversee construction.

Before actual construction can begin on the network, Western Massachusetts Electric Co., Verizon and National Grid will have to prepare the 1,400 or so utility poles to accept the stringing of cable — work that Robert Brooks of the town Broadband Committee said could take up to six months but will be done in sections, with stringing of fiber — a three-month process, said Brooks — following closely behind.

The Leverett network will not provide television service, D’Errico said, but the future of television delivery appears to be on the Internet anyway, he added.

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