Broadband Update . . .

MEMBERS OF THE HAWLEY COMMUNICATIONS Committee received ample proof over the past three weeks that Broadband – or, more precisely, construction of a high-speed, fixed wireless network for Hawley, Savoy, Monroe and Florida – is alive, well and gaining momentum.

This recent surge in activity began with the receipt of a series of documents from Carolyn Kirk, Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED). These documents consisted of a draft Action Plan, along with lists of vendor resources that could help the Towns with project management, administrative and legal issues.

The surge culminated in a highly successful workshop with Town participants and representatives from the funding agencies as well as WiValley/Otelco.

This workshop was requested by Ms. Kirk, and was held under the auspices of the Communications Committee at the Hawley Town Office on Thursday, July 26. This meeting was well-attended by MBI and EOHED officials, including Peter Larkin, MBI Chair, Bill Ennen, MBI/EOHED Liaison for Western Massachusetts, staff members Cornell Robinson and Sherif Barakat, and OEHED’s General Counsel, Michael Baldino.  

The Communications Committee meeting was opened by Chairman Lark Thwing, who then turned it over to Ms. Kirk. She and her staff devoted a good bit of time to explaining the Action Plan, and developing a “punch list” of items that would need to be completed to keep the project moving forward.  Those items include:

♦ Selection of a project manager who would liaise with the Towns, WiValley/Otelco and MBI/EOHED as the project progressed. This person’s services would be paid for out of the grant monies;

♦ Selection of legal counsel or  providers of related services to represent the interests of the Towns with regard to the various agreements, permits, etc.;   

♦ Creation and signing of legal agreements and enabling documents between the Towns and with the funding agency and the contractor; and,

♦ Designation of a formal communication process between and among the Towns, the funding agencies and the contractor that would keep everyone informed as the project progresses or encounters challenges. Hawley was named “lead town” for this purpose and Lark Thwing was named as Chair of a group of four communications representatives.

Once the paperwork is final and the project is formally approved, it will proceed in four phases, each of which will involve network construction and/or installation/signup in more than one town. These phases were detailed at the workshop by WiValley President Brian Foucher. Here is the estimated duration of each:

Mr. Foucher added that these timeframes may change during the final negotiation and planning process, as well as “depending on what the weather brings” this winter. Nonetheless, he said that the target is to achieve “connection / testing of the first customers” of the new network by October 1.

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