Southwick could benefit from MassBroadBand

SOUTHWICK – Although Southwick does receive high-speed broadband Internet and cable through Comcast, the town will benefit from the MassBroadband Institute (MBI) initiative.
The MassBroadBand 123 project will connect 120 communities through a fiber optic network, allowing many small towns to receive cable and Internet service for the first time.
MBI was created by the Patrick Administration and the Massachusetts Legislature to build over 1,300 miles of fiber-optic cable to connect communities in western and north central Massachusetts.
Several Southwick municipal buildings are being hooked up to the MassBroadBand 123 fiber network.
Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart said last night that he met last week with MBI representatives, as well as Southwick Economic Development Director Michael McMahon and a fire department member to discuss the different services MassBroadBand 123 will bring to the community.
“MBI is the state agency who has the money and they subcontracted to Axia, and they will work with about 30 vendors that will act as retailers,” said Stinehart. “Each of them will offer different services.”
Having the fiber in town means possibilities.
“We don’t have to use it, but the option will be there,” said McMahon. “With fiber, you can have astronomical speeds.”
Many of the hilltowns, including Russell, Granville, Tolland and Blandford, will greatly benefit from the system.
“A lot of these small towns have only dial-up options and no cell service,” McMahon said. “Most providers want to have so many customers per mile and don’t want to bother with small towns.”
Having the fiber network would allow cable and Internet providers to connect customers to the network, which saves the company the cumbersome cost of getting the service to smaller towns.
McMahon said MassBroadband 123 will connect town halls, police and fire stations and other pertinent facilities.
Stinehart spoke about a community connection point at the Department of Public Works headquarters on College Highway, which could benefit the town’s emergency services.
Selectwoman Tracy Cesan asked if the town could tap into the fiber optics for its emergency communications instead of the tower system being considered by the police and fire departments.
Stinehart said he asked that MBI speak to Fire Chief Richard Anderson and Police Chief Mark Krynicki about the potential options.
“This is still in its infancy,” Stinehart said of the project.
Attorney Jeffrey I. Fialky acted as Town Counsel for Southwick during recent contract negotiations with Comcast, that resulted in a renewed license with that cable television provider. The contract was renewed for five years, beginning on Sept. 30, 2012, and will expire at midnight Sept. 29, 2017.
“In an economic environment where cable operators such as Comcast have essentially de facto exclusivity as a result of the significant expense of constructing new cable facilities, and the long period of time necessary to recoup their investment, the Commonwealth has created an opportunity for a competitive choice of cable providers – at least to municipal and other large institutional customers,” said Fialky, who has held senior attorney positions within some of the country’s most prominent Fortune 100 telecommunications and cable television companies.
“Historically it was not economically feasible for a competitor to construct a new cable system,” he said.  “With the investment by MBI in this regard, however, providers such as Axia can now offer services in the context of a business model that makes sense.  Consumers always benefit from competition in the market.”
Judy A. Dumont, Massachusetts Broadband Institute Director, is scheduled to speak at The Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce St. Patrick’s Day March Breakfast on Friday at Westfield State University, where she will give a presentation on the MassBroadBand 123 project.

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