Broadband Status Update . . .

Status of the Search for High-Speed Internet for Hawley
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November 10, 2015

Status of the Search for High Speed Internet for Hawley

November 10, 2015
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Many people ask, “Where do we stand on getting Broadband for Hawley?” Our answer is always the same: “We are working on options but have not settled on a solution that will be guaranteed to work, will qualify us for Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) funding, and that the Town can afford.”

Who are “we?” We’re the Hawley Communications Committee, along with all the other people who are pursuing telecommunications solutions that would benefit Hawley.


We have made progress on several fronts. The possible solutions we are considering at this time are threefold:

  1. Fiber to the home with Wired West or some other entity.
  2. A hybrid solution that combines towers and antennae and fiber where practical, which is being tested in Royalston as this is being written.
  3. Becoming part of the Greenfield solution that is being rolled out in prototype right now, a hybrid solution with fiber and commercial grade wireless antennae on telephone-type poles.

MBI currently has a policy that requires two specific conditions to be met in order to receive some or all available funding:

  1. The solution must be ubiquitous (i.e., must be available to everyone; but not everyone has to connect)
  2. The solution must have minimum speeds of 25 mbps (megabits per second) download and 3 mbps upload.

MBI has two funding pools of money. We are eligible for $270,000 in design money if we are part of the fiber to the home MBI regional build. We are eligible for another $250,000 in build money if we meet their conditions for any solution.

Solution 1, fiber to the home, would be very expensive if we had to meet condition A, but would assuredly meet condition B. Solution 2, a hybrid of fiber and wireless, would be less expensive to meet condition A but would probably not meet condition B for everyone. Solution 3, the Greenfield model, has the capability of meeting both conditions, but we have no idea of the cost or practicability (given our terrain and how spread out we are) at this time.

Areas of Pursuit

Here is what we are pursuing:

  • Supplemental funding in the FY 17 state budget for the 18 severely disadvantaged towns in the 45 towns unserved or underserved by Broadband. We are seeking about $500,000 for Hawley alone.
  • We are pursuing our legislators for special earmarks for Hawley as we are the MOST disadvantaged of the 32 towns in the fiber to the home solution MBI will build.
  • We are trying to get a law similar to the Hingham Act to apply to Hawley. This legislation that would allow the Town to roll over one-year notes indefinitely for a particular project. Normally you have to go to long term bonding after 5 years of one year notes. This could save us as much as $300,000 in the finance costs which would otherwise accrue on the $1 million MBI estimate.
  • We are pursuing legislation to see if we can change the language on what is called “municipal space” on utility poles that towns often use for running fire alarm lines. We want to make it available for “economic development”, ie: Broadband.If this change could be accomplished, it would greatly reduce the telephone pole “make-ready” cost, which is currently a prerequisite to construction of a fiber network.
  • Most important, we are trying, through our legislators and others, to get MBI to relax the A and B conditions for MBI funding for Towns with geographic obstacles and low population densities like ours.We have known for some time that meeting MBI’s conditions under these circumstances would place an unacceptable burden on the taxpayers of Hawley.

Ongoing Conversations with MBI

You may have read recently of our joint meeting with MBI Director Eric Nakajima and the Hawley Selectboard on Tuesday, October 20. That meeting is part of an ongoing conversation that began with a telephone conference call between Mr. Nakajima and two of our members almost six months ago. In both cases, our main focus as a Committee has been to “push the envelope,” as it were, on what is possible given our current situation. And in both cases, Mr. Nakajima has been cordial and open to questions and counter-proposals, even to the point of saying he would explore changes in MBI policy, but without making any hard and fast commitments. Mr. Nakajima has also encouraged the Communications Committee to reach out to other towns – principally Royalston and Middlefield – to see what commonalities and economies of scale can be attained as we explore hybrid options. Hawley is in the process of establishing those connections, and will be meeting with those two Towns, and possibly others, in the next few weeks.

MBI Planning Grant

As part of our effort, the Communications Committee has applied for a $5,000 Broadband Planning Assistance Grant from MBI. The general purpose of our use of this money would be to engage the services of a consulting firm with experience in designing and optimizing hybrid fiber/wireless networks that would . . .

  • Identify fiber-optic routes in any parts of the Town where they are likely to be economically feasible;

  • Pinpoint potential wireless locations that work for all populated parts of the Town;

  • Characterize the types of equipment and support structures that would be needed;

  • Provide maps of predicted coverage; and,

  • Determine estimated costs for building that network.

While this study will not contain the level of engineering detail that would be necessary to actually build the network, it will be an important step toward doing so, or, alternatively, toward making the determination that, for reasons of cost, politics and geography, Broadband Internet is just not in the cards for Hawley at this point in its history.

What’s Next

We expect to know MBI’s response to our grant application within a few weeks, and for the grant project to then begin immediately.

We remain hopeful that an effective and sufficient middle ground can be found. We will do our best to keep you informed as we make our way along this frustrating, tedious, challenging and interesting path. Meantime, the Communications Committee meets on Monday afternoons at 3:00 pm about every two weeks. All meeting times and dates are posted in the “Events and Meetings” section of the Town of Hawley website, Please join us to share questions, ideas or information, or to stay updated on developments.

Respectfully submitted,
Craig Shrimpton
Greg Rowehl
Lark Thwing
Hussain Hamdan
Rick Kean

Hawley Communications Committee

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Please Note: On Friday, October 30, MBI informed Hawley by email that our MBI Planning Grant Application had been approved. Fully-executed paperwork was received back from MBI on the following Friday, November 6. By Monday, November 9 we had conducted our first formal conversation with our Consultant for the project, Fred Goldstein, Principal of Interisle Consulting Group of Hopkinton, MA.

We’re on our way!

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