9 towns to get broadband by summer

For the Bulletin
Thursday, April 27, 2017

CONWAY — After years of negotiation, broadband is finally coming to the majority of roughly 25 percent of houses in town that aren’t yet connected to the internet.

This spring and summer, expect to see Verizon and Comcast cable crews surveying telephone poles and installing high-speed internet cables in rural neighborhoods throughout town.

Under a contract signed last August between the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and Comcast, addressing the broadband needs of nine Western Mass. towns, including Huntington and Pelham, Conway Select Board member Robert Armstrong said “they have about a year and a half” to “extend their network in those towns to exceed 96 percent coverage.”

Armstrong said Comcast is “forecasting they should be done way ahead of time.”

After the build-out is complete, Comcast regional spokeswoman Kristen L. Roberts said, residential customers will be able to sign up for services with speeds between 10 megabites and 2 gigabites per second; businesses will be able to subscribe for service up to 10 gigabites per second. A broadband adoption program, low-cost internet for low-income families, will also be available.

The agreement came “after a few years of negotiation,” Armstrong said. Funding will come through a $4 million state grant and private Comcast funds. Armstrong noted another $1 million was appropriated to pay for MBI.

Other towns

Other towns in the contract are Buckland, Hardwick, Chester, Montague, Northfield and Shelburne.

Logistically, Armstrong said, Comcast intends to install wires and connect new customers as soon as Verizon finishes inspecting and documenting the condition of telephone poles, a required action for financial and safety reasons.

“Comcast is completing the really technical designs about how long the new cables have to be, and all of the electronics it takes to extend their network in these towns,” Armstrong said.

“There’s very specific rules about where the wires have to be on poles,” he continued. “If there isn’t enough room, they might have to move a wire up or down — or if there isn’t enough room at all, they might have to put in a new pole.”