Broadband Quick FAQ (pdf)
Many of your fellow residents have no effective and affordable internet option. Satellite and cellular internet services are very expensive and have major technical limitations. Without adequate internet access, your neighbours and the town as a whole suffer: home values and economic development are depressed, educational opportunities are limited and the town is unattractive to young families. Internet access is a modern utility and lack of broadband is a serious hardship, similar to the lack of electricity or telephone of 100 years ago. Nearly all of the methods of interacting with the outside world (shopping, education, communications, entertainment, etc.) are evolving rapidly to utilize and even depend on broadband access that is already available to most people in the industrialized world. Your support for broadband helps your neighbors who are not as lucky as you and supports the future vitality of the town as a whole. Also, most of what is currently available is Verizon DSL. Verizon is looking to exit this business, so DSL may not be around much longer.
Building a high-speed, high-capacity, affordable network will have numerous important positive effects for our region. Conversely, doing nothing will stifle future prospects for our communities. High-speed internet access is necessary for much of our day-to-day lives. It impacts regional commerce, education, health and public safety, cultural enrichment, government operations, and aids in countless conveniences and efficiencies in our lives. It is as critical to the future of economic growth as access to a telephone line. Consider commerce. Today, high-speed internet access is a requirement for many business. A fiberoptic network creates a level playing field so that western Massachusetts can compete with the rest of the world. Western Massachusetts has the highest proportion of home-based businesses in the state and also relies heavily on tourism revenues – both tied to high-speed internet access. Many kinds of businesses – large and small – can reduce costs by relocating to our rural region, which increases local employment opportunities, tax revenues, and investment. Universal internet access combined with the quality of life that our region offers entices telecommuters and people of all ages to remain in, or relocate to, the area. This benefits our region by increasing the tax base and demand for services, and also contributes to the vitality and diversity of our communities. Educational opportunities with fiber are immense. Compared to their urban counterparts with high-speed access, our students are receiving an inferior learning experience. Online learning opportunities for all citizens are tremendous and growing. The internet is our modern encyclopedia and university. So-called Massive Open Online Courses are now widely available ushering in an era of democratization of education around the world. And yet in western Massachusetts many of our students can be found after hours sitting outside the local library to perform rudimentary internet-based research! Internet access affects our lives in many ways. In rural areas, telemedicine provides remote patient care and monitoring, and access to specialists through video conferencing. Police and emergency personnel depend on internet-based communication networks during crisis situations to access critical information quickly and securely. An increasing array of government services are only available online – from tax forms to payroll reporting – but without access, it’s difficult or impossible to take advantage of them.
Some of us do. When Eisenhower decided to push the Interstate Highway system, it was not with the idea that everyone would have to use it. However, business and government functions were greatly improved by this massive infrastructure project. Over time, more and more people recognized its value. We need more choices. Those that need fast and affordable connections should have the option.
A fiber-to-the-home network involves the communications signal being delivered over fiberoptic cable to the home or business. Fiber is the fastest known technology, transmitting information at the speed of light and using one of the world’s most stable materials – glass. This technology is the most reliable method to provide vastly higher bandwidth to households and businesses, supporting modern applications.Fiber means phone, cable television, and very fast Internet over just one line. One strand of fiber has thousands of times more bandwidth capacity than any of the competing technologies like DSL, cable, satellite and wireless, and thus is the only one considered “future proof.” Fiber has virtually unlimited capacity to meet emerging and future needs like video-streaming, video conferencing, remote medical care, file sharing and cloud computing. Currently the FCC is predicting an order of magnitude increase in bandwidth requirements every two years, based on recent history. Fiber optic can handle this increase in demand. Compared to copper-based DSL and cable systems, fiber is also cost-effective to install and maintain. It is the cheapest way to bring universal, reliable high-bandwidth service to rural America. It is, in fact, cheaper than the copper wires we extended to American homes 100 years ago, on a cost-adjusted basis. Also, because fiber is lashed to a high-tensile cable, it is less susceptible to breakage and weather events. As a hard-wired solution, it is not vulnerable to the shortcomings of wireless technologies. The fiber itself is installed on existing pole or conduit infrastructure and most of the cost is in labor, providing good regional economic stimulus in the deployment phase, and a critical foundation for future regional commerce. Fiber-optics also makes environmental sense. Fiber users report doing more work from home. On average, fiber customers work about one more day a month from home because of their connectivity. If everyone worked at home just one day a month we would see annually: 5% reduction in gasoline use 4% reduction in C02 emissions $5 billion in lower road expenditures $1.5 billion commute hours recaptured Direct savings to business
In the late 20th century, copper wire technologies were tweaked to increase the amount of data they could carry. However, despite these improvements, the fundamental physical properties and limitations of DSL are no different today than when the first telephone exchange was opened in 1877 by the Bell Telephone Company. Our bandwidth needs are now increasing 40 to 50% per year, and they are beginning to dramatically slow the flow of information over this “souped-up” copper, the same way increasing the number of homes served by one small water pipe would reduce the flow to each home. Like the other last generation technologies, wireless has similar bandwidth limitations, making it slow and ill-equipped for modern applications. It is also subject to interference from weather and signal obstacles including foliage. Of particular challenge to our area is the requirement of a clear line of sight between the transmitting tower and the receiver at the residence. In much of the rest of the world, and urban/suburban areas of the U.S., fiber networks to the home have become the deployed medium of choice. It is important that our rural businesses, students, medical professionals and citizens can live and operate on a level playing field with the rest of the world.
Fiber networks are future-proof. The speeds capable on fiber networks are still increasing with new electronics and signalling techniques. These networks will have paid for themselves many times over before becoming obsolete.
Fiberoptic cables are surprisingly strong. There are problems when fiber is cut, but there are similar problems when phone lines or power lines are severed. That said, fiber cables have proven more resilient than power lines in ice storms and tornadoes. Fiberoptic networks have been used for decades and the tools for keeping them running 24/7 are mature.
Practically speaking, as a point of comparison, a typical download for an operating system update will require about 35 minutes using DSL, eight minutes using satellite and 20 seconds minutes using fiber optic service.
You need fiber if you want high speed internet now or want to be able to increase your speed later as your needs increase. Most DSL speeds in Western Massachusetts are less than 3 Mbps. A small number of residents in town have 6 Mbps service. Petersham’s proposed fiber optic speed is at least 50 Mbps with faster speeds possible. If poor service and lack of investment isn’t sufficient evidence, Verizon executives have clearly indicated their intention to phase out copper line services, i.e. land line phone and DSL. Verizon’s CEO recently said, “In areas that are more rural and more sparsely populated, we have got [a wireless 4G] LTE build that will handle all of those services and so we are going to cut the copper off there.” In some areas Verizon has already begun to push customers into a cellular broadband replacement – an inferior and more expensive “solution.”
In short, Wi-Fi is great for mobility, but does not offer competitively fast speeds or the reliability of wired connections. Fiber is a long term investment that facilitates wireless, but wireless is not a replacement for a full fiber-to-the-home network. A fiber network could actually lay the groundwork (literally) for a wireless network. The fiber network would offer more potential locations to add wireless access points, which need a backhaul.
First, cellular service is not accessible from many locations in Petersham. Additional cellular towers would be required. Second, cell service is extremely expensive when used as your primary internet connection. A gigabyte (GB) of data averages between $5 and $15 depending on your cell plan. In 2014, the average internet user with a wired connection in the United States consumed over 51 GB per month. Third, cellular data is unreliable. Congestion on cellular networks are common resulting in dropped calls and slowed internet traffic.
For satellite internet, there are two main problems: data caps and latency. Like cellular networks, the overage charges are prohibitively expensive. In addition, satellite internet is fundamentally limited by the long distance that radio transmissions must travel between earth and the orbiting satellite. This transmission lag, called latency, means that many modern uses for the internet including video conferencing, cloud-based storage services, internet telephony, online games, and secure networking for telecommuting, are flaky at best, often fail completely, or quickly exceed data caps. Inclement weather (e.g. rain) often causes service outages for the duration of the weather event. Satellite internet has been characterized by some as “glorified dial-up”.
The Petersham Broadband Municipal Light Plant (PBMLP) will be the town-appointed body that oversees the pricing, customer service and operation of the proposed fiberoptic network in town. It was established pursuant to Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 164, Section 47E, per vote of recent Petersham Annual and Special Town Meetings.
If the December 12th Special Town Meeting vote is approved, $560,000 will be used for so-called “Pole Survey” and “Make-ready” work. Make-ready involves the movement of telephone and electrical wires on utility poles, upgrades to poles, and the legal work required so that the Town can utilize the utility poles to carry telecommunications cable for Internet.
The fiberoptic network proposed for Petersham does not include a specific offering for television service, but only includes internet access and optionally phone service. However there is a growing list of third-party providers offering streaming video over the internet to computers, tablets and Internet-enabled television sets.
These services include among others, DirectTV Now, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, SlingTV as well as some of the traditional broadcast networks.
For example one such service offers 100 channels of television programming for as little as $35 a month.
We expect that many Petersham residents will choose to drop their Satellite TV subscriptions as fiberoptic internet becomes available in town.