SOUTHWICK – Richard Carnall and John Leary of the Westfield G+E had an informal discussion with the Select Board about Whip City Fiber.
According to Select Board Chairman Joe Deedy, some residents of the town have approached him and the board over the past several months inquiring about Westfield G+E’s Whip City Fiber service. The board invited Westfield G+E representatives to their meeting this week to give them more information about their internet.
In 2015, Westfield G+E was approved a $15 million bond from the City of Westfield to provide high speed and fiber optic internet to 70 percent of Westfield. That same year, Whip City Fiber started being offered to a few neighborhoods in Westfield.
Currently, Westfield G+E has been appropriated by the city to cover 70% of Westfield with Whip City Fiber. When speaking to the Select Board, Carnall and Leary acknowledged that they’re working with 20 hilltowns in Massachusetts on installing Whip City Fiber in those respective communities.
“It’s a long project. It’s a worthwhile project as you can get a state-of-the-art internet,” said Carnall.
The process in Westfield involves Westfield G+E employees examining the utility poles where the fiber will be installed. It needs to be determined that there’s enough space for the fiber to be on the existing utility poles. An underground investigation then ensues, which involves figuring out the location of underground utilities like wires, pipes, and water lines.
On the Whip City Fiber page on the Westfield G+E website, it notes that once the installers go to a residence to install the fiber, it could take up to four hours.
Carnall and Leary also informed the Select Board that about 30 to 40 percent of the money spent on the project goes towards working on the telephone poles.
The two Information Technology professionals from Westfield G+E said that a lot of the hilltowns had very little or no internet prior to Whip City Fiber starting to be installed in their town. A major issue for the hilltowns is that the younger adults and teenagers in those communities flock away from that particular area due to no Wi-Fi or bad internet connection.
“It’s going to be a great story for these towns,” said Leary.
Select Board Clerk Doug Moglin noted that he’s heard stories in the past of kids in Tolland driving up to public spots in town like the library, just to get Wi-fi.
“That’s a real, real big problem,” said Moglin.
The installation of Whip City Fiber in the 20 hilltowns should be completed by 2021 or 2022.
Pointing out that Whip City Fiber costs $60,000 per mile, and Westfield G & E can’t spend capital on this project outside of their own city, Carnall and Leary don’t want the Select Board to only think of how daunting the process is.
“I don’t want to dissuade you from it,” said Leary. “Don’t be that way.”
Currently, residents and businesses in Southwick use Comcast as their internet service provider.
“The cost with Comcast is escalating out of control,” said Moglin.
Whip City Fiber costs $69.95 a month for up to 1,000 gigabits for residential internet service.
Although Carnall and Leary told the Select Board that they wouldn’t be able to begin installing Whip City Fiber into portions of Southwick until they’re finished in Westfield, they did make suggestions. If the town is interested, they should form a sub-committee to further discuss it and even create a survey to see what residents and businesses think about the possibility of Whip City Fiber.
“I think it’s definitely worth forming a committee and looking at it,” said Deedy. “We can’t shy away from it.”