Plainfield approves spending $400K for broadband network 

  • Cables connecting phone, cable and Internet service come out of a wall connector in a home office March 26, 2015, in Friday Harbor, Washington. AP PHOTO/Elaine Thompson

For the Gazette
Published: 3/15/2019 12:15:42 AM

PLAINFIELD — An overflow crowd packed Town Hall on Tuesday night, prompting a special Town Meeting to be moved to the Congregational Church, where 133 of the town’s 471 registered voters unanimously approved spending $400,000 for the construction of a town-owned broadband network.

“You never know how these things are going to go, but people really showed up to vote in favor of this, nobody voted against it and nobody abstained,” Select Board Chairman Howard Bronstein said.

In May 2015, Plainfield’s annual town meeting voted overwhelmingly to appropriate $1.13 million in town funding for a town-wide broadband internet network.

According to Bronstein, a combination of inaccurate cost estimates and an increase in pricing over the last four years is what necessitated the additional funding.

“We did this to make sure that we can pay the bill the day that construction begins,” Bronstein said.

The town is working with Westfield Gas and Electric, which is providing design, engineering, and project management services, to build the network.

“Westfield Gas and Electric came up and gave a demo before the meeting, showing people how things will be connected and where things will go on their house,” Bronstein said. “At the end there were no questions, people just wanted to vote.”

As planned, the town’s fiber-optic network will provide high-speed Internet and telephone service to every residence and business in town.

Bronstein said that Plainfield wanted a town-owned network in part to ensure that every home in town would be served.

He noted that the town of Worthington, which selected Comcast to construct its network, is now negotiating to connect homes left out of the 97.7 percent covered in the company’s plan.

“The large corporations are going into small towns because the state is giving them the money to do so,” Bronstein said, noting that their coverage is often around 96 percent. “That is great if you are one of the 96 percent but if you are in the four percent what are you supposed to do?”

For small rural towns like Plainfield, acquiring high speed internet has been a difficult process, one that larger cities and towns have not had to go through.

“It has been a real struggle,” Bronstein said. “We have had to work harder, relying on volunteers and turning our neighbors into electronic and project engineers, doing the work that other people get huge paychecks to do.”

With the “make ready” work on utility poles completed by Eversource and Verizon, Bronstein said that construction on the network will begin this year.

Bronstein said that for residents of Plainfield the long and laborious journey to acquiring high speed internet is about to pay off.

“It was a trade off, we had to work harder, but in the end we will have a system that is 100 percent owned by the town of Plainfield, and we will have the entire town wired,” he said. “Hopefully a year from now we can sit back and say, ah, isn’t this great!”

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