Upcoming Events

  1. Zoning Board of Appeals MeetingAgenda
    1. Open the Meeting (Chair)
    2. Share Information Gathered at the CPTC Conference on 3/18
    3. Discuss Senior Housing Issues and Planning Board Proposal
    4. Items not reasonably anticipated by the chair 48 hours in advance of the meeting
    5. Adjourn the Meeting
    Thu, Mar 30 07:00 pm
  2. Municipal Light Plant MeetingAgenda
    1. This is a notice that a quorum of the Ashfield MLP Advisory Board may be present at an invited regional meeting in Plainfield
    Mon, Apr 3 06:30 pm
  3. Board of Assessors MeetingAgenda
    1. Open the Meeting (Chair)
    2. Appointments
    3. Review and approval of minutes from previous meetings March 20, March 27
    4. Signatures - Monthly Lists, Warrant to Collector
    5. Followup re:  Assistant Hours Request
    6. Reveiw 2 1/2, Levy Limits and Assessors Duties for Website Document and Ashfield News submission
    7. Items not reasonably anticipated by the chair 48 hours in advance of the meeting
    8. Upcoming Meetings
    9. Adjourn the Meeting


    The listing of matters are those reasonably anticipated by the Chair which may be discussed at the meeting.  Not all items listed may in fact be discussed, and other items not listed may also be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law.

     


     

    Tue, Apr 4 06:00 pm
  4. Select Board MeetingAgenda

    1.  MEETING CONVENES
         A.  Announcement on recording devices
    2.  CONSENT AGENDA
        Minutes 03/20/17 • As Submitted  • As Amended
        Warrants    W17-21 Payroll, W17-21 Vendor       
    3.  APPOINTMENTS WITH SELECT BOARD
         A.  Ashfield Town Beach Update – Judy Haupt
    4.  DISCUSSION/DECISION ITEMS
         A.  Town Hall Use application – Blood Drive, 4/8/17
         B.  FRCOG Bicycle Parking Program Agreement
         C.  Buy Recycled Policy
         D.  Salary Study Update
         E.  Mold Remediation Update
         F.  Broadband Status Project Report
             i.  MLP Advisory Board Minutes
             ii. MBI Grant
    5.  TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S REPORT
    6.  MAIL
    7.  PUBLIC COMMENT
    8.  * ITEMS NOT REASONABLY ANTICIPATED BY THE CHAIR 48 HOURS IN ADVANCE OF THE MEETING
    9.  UPCOMING MEETINGS
    10. ADJOURN
    The listing of matters are those reasonably anticipated by the Chair which may be discussed at the meeting.  Not all items listed may in fact be discussed, and other items not listed may also be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law.

    Tue, Apr 4 06:30 pm
  5. Municipal Light Plant MeetingAgenda
    1. Open the Meeting (Chair)
    2. Review and approval of minutes from previous meetings
    3. Contract with WG&E MLP
    4. State Grant Program
    5. Data Collection
    6. Items not reasonably anticipated by the chair 48 hours in advance of the meeting
    7. Upcoming Meetings
    8. Adjourn the Meeting
    Tue, Apr 4 07:30 pm
  6. Council on Aging MeetingAgenda
    1. Open the Meeting (Chair)
    2. Review and Approve Minutes
    3. Treasurers Report
    4. Budget FY2018
    5. Friends
    6. Discuss Upcoming Meetings (April - lunch at the Lake House & May - Spring Planting)
    7. Items not reasonably anticipated by the chair 48 hours in advance of the meeting
    8. Public Comments
    9. Adjourn the Meeting
    Wed, Apr 5 02:00 pm
  7. Finance Committee MeetingAgenda
    1. Open the Meeting (Chair)
    2. Review and approval of minutes from previous meetings
    3. Update re: vocational school enrollments
    4. Update re: broadband developments
    5. Discussion of the FY2018 Budget as well as longer-term trends affecting future budgets and financial management for the town
    6. Planning for budget hearing on April 18
    7. Items not reasonably anticipated by the chair 48 hours in advance of the meeting
    8. Upcoming Meetings
    9. Adjourn the Meeting
    Wed, Apr 5 07:30 pm

Broadband Internet for Ashfield

This information is provided by the Ashfield Technology Committee

Introduction

One of the Ashfield Technology Committee's missions is to bring high speed fiber internet to every home in Ashfield in the most cost effective, equitable, minimum risk, high quality and expedient manner possible.

Our committee is currently working on a plan to connect all homes in town to the internet via fiber optic cable. Fiber optic cable will provide internet access to all subscribers at speeds up to 100 times faster than average DSL, cable or satellite connections (1-3 Mbps) 

Our Goals for Ashfield Broadband

  • Equitable: Every home, business and buildable lot in town must be able to be served by the network.
  • Financially Responsible: The funding model for the project must be realistic for our town with a prudent plan for repayment of any incurred municipal debt within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Affordable: The cost for monthly subscriber fees must be competitive and fair for townspeople.
  • High Quality: The network must be reliable and secure with continued maintenance plans to deliver ongoing quality service.
  • Scalable and Future-Proof: The network must serve residents for years to come and be easily modified or expanded to provide continued access as needs increase. 

Underserved

At the moment a fraction of Ashfield residents have access to the internet via Verizon DSL. The current DSL service is built with deteriorating electronics on old copper telephone wires. It is an outdated and limited technology that can't keep up with today's internet and is going to be phased out by Verizon in the not-too-distant future. ( MassLive ArticlePrinceton Broadband Article ) Some households pay high rates for satellite-based internet, which suffers from high latency, outages during bad weather, and limits on data usage. In addition, very few parts of our town have cellular phone service. One recent, good alternative for the town center is Hilltown Network's fixed wireless broadband service (10 Mbps). Hilltown Networks plans to widen coverage, but its unclear how much of our hilly town can be served by wireless. In short, we are an underserved community.

The Current Situation

The current plan is for Ashfield to build its own FTTH network following the state's "Independent Municipal Network" model. The key features of the plan are that the town will own all of the infrastructure (electronics, cables, and terminal devices attached to premises) and will outsource operations of the network to third party vendors. The plan calls for the MBI to contribute $770,000 towards construction costs and $640,000 in professional services. The town will contribute the remaining $2,300,000 estimated for the capital project.

The plan differs significantly from the regional plan originally endorsed by WiredWest, the municipal light plant cooperative. WiredWest had proposed that the towns jointly own a regional network and that the co-op would create a company to operate much of the business in-house. Protracted discussions between the state and WiredWest were not fruitful.

Although a regionalized approach to operate the network remains an option, which could save towns money and require less local expertise, the hurdles appear substantial. As a result, many towns including Ashfield are opting to take the independent, outsourced approach and consider regionalization later.

Best Case Timeline

Starting October 3, 2016 pole surveying will begin and is expected to last for three weeks. You may see workers and trucks marked “Osmose” along town roads during this time.

Concurrent with the pole surveys, the town expects to begin contract negotiations with MBI in early October 2016. The following describes the major events and best case timeline:

  • Fall 2016 - MBI-Ashfield contract negotiations, pole surveying
  • Fall-Winter 2016 - Detailed network design (MBI)
  • Winter-Spring 2017 - "Make Ready" and pole licensing (MBI)
  • Spring 2017
    • Town issues RFP and hires Network Operator and ISP
    • ISP begins marketing campaign for service subscriptions
    • Construction begins (MBI)
  • Late 2017 - Mid 2018 - Network completed, "lit", service begins

Possible Cost for Service

The total cost for service is not fixed at this time because vendors have not been chosen, numerous policies have yet to be determined, and the fraction of residents who will subscribe (the "take rate") is not known. However, based on LeverettNet’s operation costs and an estimate for ISP costs from Crocker Communications, a range of total monthly costs to subscribers can be estimated.

Prices in the following table assume 15-year financing of the network at a 4% interest rate. The rows describe different strategies for paying debt. For example, 70%/30% means that 70% of the debt payments are paid through property taxes and 30% is paid through a subscriber fee. The columns correspond to different take rates. As the number of subscribers increases, the cost of service decreases because the fixed operation costs are spread among more subscribers.

Range of Total Monthly Internet Service Costs

Take Rate

45%

65%

85%

Debt Financing

% Tax / % Sub

70%/30%

$94

$74

$65

50%/50%

$103

$80

$70

30%/70%

$112

$86

$75

 

Why This Matters

Reliable, affordable internet access is important for all residents because it brings numerous benefits to our community. Broadband internet is no longer a luxury but rather an essential utility in the 21st century.

Financial

  • To maintain the value of our homes. Many home buyers and renters will not consider a property that does not have broadband available
  • Makes work-from-home jobs and small home-based business attractive and possible
  • Can reduce household costs by bundling phone and internet service together

Education

  • Our students are at an educational disadvantage compared to towns with broadband where students can complete research and access homework assignments from home
  • Parents are increasingly expected to access children’s school information online
  • Adults and children can use the unlimited resources available for online learning opportunities
  • Access to online courses and degree programs for continuing adult education
  • Makes Ashfield an attractive hometown choice for families to move to which will increase our dwindling school enrollment

Public Safety

  • Residents can be notified about emergencies and access information critical to their safety and well-being
  • First responders can send and received critical voice, video and data information
  • Town health and safety volunteers can receive online continuing education and certification

Healthcare

  • Access health information online
  • Access to specialists regardless of geography
  • Provide remote care and monitoring for patients in their own home
  • Allows elderly residents to stay in their own homes longer while receiving quality care
  • Direct communication with your own health care providers
  • Connect parents to online resources and support groups

Quality of Life

  • Stay informed about town and community events
  • Stream movies, television and other online media
  • Pursue hobbies
  • Stay connected with friends and family around the country

FAQs

What's so great about high-speed fiber compared to other internet services? The term for internet speed is "Mbps" which means "megabits per second." With DSL the highest speeds available now are 1-3 Mbps. Basic high-speed fiber in the WiredWest network will deliver speeds of 25 Mbps. These high speeds mean you can work, surf the internet or stream movies and your kids can do research for a school project all at the same time -  with no reduction in speed regardless of the time of day. Unlimited data means you won't be charged extra no matter how much you use the internet. Whether you're working from home on a snow day or enjoying a movie with your family, the WiredWest network will deliver the speeds you need.

I already have DSL at my home. Why do I need this? The internet itself is constantly evolving. Websites are adding features, videos and other content which require a fast connection to run. Remember the days of dial-up and how there were some websites that either took forever to load or wouldn't load at all? That will become the plight of regular DSL as web content evolves and becomes more sophisticated. The DSL speeds we have in Ashfield now (1-3 Mbps) likely will have trouble handling the internet that's coming in the next few years. Even now, many Ashfield residents cannot load data-heavy websites or stream video content through their current DSL service at certain times during the day when system usage is high.

I don't use computers or the internet. Why should I care about broadband? Even if you don't use the internet yourself there's a compelling reason to support the plan and that's home value. Many of our residents have already encountered difficulty selling or renting their homes because there are fewer and fewer people who are willing to move to an area that lacks adequate internet service. When it's time to sell your home you'll get up to 20% less if high-speed internet isn’t available. (Source: The Guardian [New York] 1 Mar. 2014: "Fast broadband now considered vital by increasing numbers of homebuyers." Estimate confirmed by professional local realtors at Jones Realty, Amherst, Massachusetts.)

How much will the monthly subscription fees cost? see estimates in table above

What about TV?  TV will not be offered as part of the service, however, the field of internet-delivered television is changing rapidly. Major networks such as CBS are now offering their programming directly over the internet. We fully expect many more options to emerge in the next few years, including even more expansion of existing TV-via-internet services (Apple TV, Netflix, DirectTV, NBA, MLB). High-speed fiber internet makes delivering these options to your home possible!

Will there be an installation fee? Either no fee or a small fee will be charged at the time of construction of the network. If you subscribe later, after the network has been built, the cost of installation will be much greater.

How Soon Will I Have Broadband? A project of this scope requires many complex decisions and finances as well as the involvement of private and public entities all working together. Our community could have broadband by the end of 2017 or early-mid 2018 since we'll be one of the first towns to be built.

Who Will Pay For Building The Network? There is state money available - most notably, the $40,000,000 in the Massachusetts IT bond bill of 2014. That money is currently authorized for allocation by the MBI. This money will cover about 1/3 of the cost of Ashfield's network and the town will pay the remaining 2/3 of the cost.

Why are we using taxpayer dollars for this? Shouldn't a private company cover the costs? Over the last 20 years, various companies have had the chance to deliver broadband internet to Ashfield. None of them have done so and there is no reason to expect them to invest in our community now. Ashfield has relatively few households and low population density so there's not an adequate return to warrant investment by commercial internet companies. 

Check for updates! This website is a work in progress. Our goal is be transparent. Please stay tuned. 

Resources To Learn More:

Glossary of Entities And Terminology

Axia - Axia is the company contracted by MBI to administer the "middle mile" network. Any fiber-to-the-home network built by Ashfield would resell the bandwidth bought in bulk from Axia.

Backhaul Network - the connection between a local network and the wider world of the internet.  

Last Mile - term used to refer to connections between a point of presence and individual households . It is the last leg of a network.

Latency - the time it takes for data to reach a destination independent of the speed of travel. Satellite internet suffers from high latency. An analogy is turning on a garden hose and waiting for the water to reach you. That delay is the latency - and is the same phenomenon seen with satellite internet - you click a link, and after some latency the page starts to arrive.

Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) - MBI is a quasi-private organization that is funded by state and federal grants. MBI works closely with municipalities, broadband service providers and other key stakeholders to create new economic opportunities and bridge the digital divide in Massachusetts. MBI has succeeded in bringing the "middle mile" network to the centers of many communities in Western Mass, including Ashfield. MBI is administering the recent $40,000,000 grant from the state to build out "last-mile" networks to homes in Western Mass.

Middle Mile - the set of fiber optic cables that connect points of presence in towns with the internet backbone.

Municipal Lighting Plant (MLP) - A legal entity under Chapter 164 of Massachusetts General Laws, which authorizes the town to deliver telecommunications services, including internet service. As a founding member of the WiredWest Cooperative, Ashfield has an MLP already established.

Point of Presence (POP) - the place where fiber optic lines to households connect to the cable that runs out of town and connects to the wider internet.

Request For Proposals (RFP) - The formal process by which a town requests bids from contractors to do work

Take Rate - the percentage of households in an area with a network who actually subscribe to use the network. Having an accurate estimate of this is important, to be able to predict how long it will take a network to pay for itself when attempting to secure financing.

WiredWest is a Municipal Lighting Plant Cooperative of 40+ towns in Western Massachusetts who are working together to bring broadband to its member  communities and towns.