Hilltown Voices: Goshen moves forward on town-owned fiber-optic network

For the Gazette
Saturday, June 24, 2017

GOSHEN — After nearly 10 years of trying to secure high-speed broadband access for Goshen, the town is now on track to get a fiber-optic network within the next 18 to 24 months.

On June 16, the Select Board voted unanimously to go forward with the construction of a town-owned telecommunications network.

Goshen follows other Hilltowns that have decided to build town-owned networks, including Ashfield, Cummington, Chesterfield, Plainfield and Windsor.

“It’s awesome,” Bob Labrie, the Goshen delegate for WiredWest, said during an interview on Thursday afternoon. “This is something that I have been working on for the last 9.5 years, so I am happy.”

“I give the Goshen Select Board a lot of credit,” he said. “They, along with others, put a lot of time and effort into looking into the details, so they could make a good decision for the town.”

The town will enter into an agreement with Westfield Gas and Electric to design and build the network.

Goshen has requested $770,000 from the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, money that has been set aside by the state to design and construct the network.

A portion of the grant money will be used to hire a company to do a pole survey, evaluating the 1,332 utility poles in town to see if any need to be replaced or repaired. National Grid, the owner of the poles, will assist in the survey.

The survey is the first step in the process to ensure that the town poles can accommodate the fiber-optic cable.

Labrie noted that this piece of the project is particularly complicated and lengthy. The town must purchase a surety bond, get insurance, and pay annual licensing fees for the use of space on the poles. National Grid requires a separate application for every 125 poles, at $300 per application; 11 applications will be needed.

By next spring or summer, the town will begin working with Westfield Gas and Electric to systematically get sections of town, or “fiber neighborhoods,” up and running.

As one fiber neighborhood is completed, another will be started until the entire town has access.

“In the long run, this is going to be a real game changer for the town,” Labrie said.

The town has yet to decide who will be responsible for the networks’ maintenance and operation.

WiredWest has offered to serve Goshen and other Hilltowns by linking the individual town-owned networks into a regionally maintained and operated network that would consolidate costs and services.

Chesterfield to hold property auction

A public auction for one parcel of tax-foreclosed property will be held on Monday, June 26, at 6 p.m. in the Select Board Office at the Davenport Building, 422 Main Road.

The property being auctioned is 14 acres of land with 820 feet of frontage on Cummington Road.

“This is one piece of property with no structures,” Town Administrator Sue Labrie said. “This is not something that has just been taken. The town has owned it for awhile now.”

Labrie said that she has received several inquiries about the auction and that bid packets are available from the Select Board office and online at townofchesterfieldma.com.

Lightning hits Williamsburg

During a storm on Monday afternoon, lightning struck the Town Office Building in Haydenville at around 5:30 p.m., knocking out the building’s internet access for over 24 hours.

“I had heard some thunder rumblings upcountry, but then it got really dark here,” Town Clerk Brenda Lessard said. “Suddenly there was booming thunder, then a bright, brilliant flash just outside my window and a big crack that scared the bejesus out of me!”

Lessard said the town IT employees were able to replace the town’s modem, and Comcast was called in to repair their equipment. By 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the town office was back online.

“We were open on Tuesday and, luckily, I could do most of my work the old-fashioned way,” Lessard said. “You don’t realize how much you depend on the internet, but we are back in business.”

Ideas for this column on life in the Hilltowns can be sent to Fran Ryan at fryan.gazette@gmail.com