Kimberly Longey and Brian Hawthorne lead Plainfield's Ad-hoc High Speed Internet Access Working Group to work towards bringing broadband to Plainfield, including investigating legacy providers, wireless ISPs, hybrid solutions, and fiber-optic networks.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts established the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative with $40 million in funding for rural broadband. Verizon installed obsolete and refurbished DSL equipment in Plainfield, bringing at-least-better-than-dialup-speed Internet to a portion of the town.
MBI designed a middle-mile fiber-optic network to connect 123 unserved and underserved towns, using state and federal ARRA funding.
Plainfield was a founding member town of the Wired West organization, created to design and build a 30+ town regional last-mile fiber network. Kimberly Longey serves on steering committee and Brian Hawthorne is appointed Plainfield's delegate.
Plainfield Town Meeting voted to create a Municipal Light Plant (MLP). The MLP is a department of the town ("Plainfield Light and Telecommunications Department") and provides services under the name “Plainfield Broadband.”
Plainfield worked with Wired West to map premises and utility poles in preprartion for network design. Volunteers signed up more than 60% of residents who pledged to take service. Wired West worked with MBI to develop an organizational structure for combining town borrowing with state grants to build a regional last-mile fiber optic network.
May: Plainfield’s annual town meeting voted overwhelmingly to appropriate $1.13 million in town funding for a town-wide broadband Internet network.
December: Gov. Charlie Baker put efforts to bring high-speed Internet to underserved Massachusetts towns on hold while his new administration reviewed the process.
After a year of policy shifts and delays, the state agreed to grant funds directly to individual towns for designing and constructing broadband networks. Plainfield’s promised state funds total $650,000.
March: Plainfield’s selectboard named Kimberly Longey manager of Plainfield Broadband, and Brian Hawthorne assisstant manager. Kimberly and a team of dedicated town volunteers are working on all of the details to make high-speed Internet available for every home and business in town. The board of selectmen retains approval authority over all contracts and hiring, and the manager brings all substantive policy, finance, procurement, and operational decisions to the board.
July: Westfield Gas and Electric and its contractors began collecting engineering data on Plainfield’s 1,053 utility poles and 363 premises. Data collection continued through February 2018; this information is the basis of our network design.
October: Plainfield successfully negotiated agreements with Eversource and Verizon for “make-ready” work on utility poles throughout town.
March: Plainfield Broadband met with 120 households to verify and correct premise data for our final network design.
April: Town residents cleared brush and small trees to prepare the site of Plainfield Broadband’s telecommunications “hub” next to the town public safety complex.
June: Through the state bidding process, White Mountain Cable Company LLC (of New Hampshire) was awarded a $680,000 contract to construct Plainfield’s network.
June: Plainfield established an intergovernmental agreement with the town of Windsor to construct infrastructure along Windsor Pond Access Road, West Street, and Windsor Bush Road to help Windsor reach their residents whose properties can only be accessed through Plainfield. Windsor will reimburse Plainfield for the approximate $80,000 in capital costs for this work and will also reimburse Plainfield on an annual basis for a prorated share of costs for network operations, maintenance, and repairs.
June through September: The town highway crew and private citizens lent their time and earth-moving equipment to dig trenches and build an access road to the hub site.
August: Plainfield, in partnership with 19 other towns and WG+E, began pursuing federal funding through the Connect America Fund (CAFII) program. $10 million has been allocated to our consortium, and Plainfield’s share is $430,686 to be paid over 10 years. This funding can be used to reduce the town’s costs to construct the network.
September: A broadband finance working group — comprised of the MLP manager and assistant manager, the selectboard chair, two members of the finance committee, the town accountant, and town treasurer — was established. This group has conducted extensive financial modeling for the capital and operational phases of the project.
October: Plainfield Broadband’s telecommunications hub and generator were installed.
December: Eversource and Verizon completed necessary field survey and cost-estimating work to establish the “make ready” requirements for all poles in town. Plainfield paid Eversource and Verizon a total of $386,742 for the make ready work the utilities will do in early 2019.
Eversource and Verizon replaced poles and moved their cables to make room for Plainfield Broadband’s fiber-optic cables. Plainfield received licenses to attach to the poles in summer of 2019. Plainfield Broadband closely monitored discussions concerning the Commonwealth’s last-mile contingency funds, urging the “allowable uses” to cover any and all cost overruns.
Plainfield’s MLP manager convened a periodic meeting of MLP managers from the towns of Ashfield, Charlemont, Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, and Windsor to share lessons learned and collaborate on solutions.
Plainfield withdrew from WiredWest and worked directly with Whip City Fiber. Those who had paid a $49 deposit during the WiredWest pre-subscription drive in 2015 received refunds.
Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to authorize an additional $400,000 in borrowing for the project, bringing the total borrowing authorization to $1.53 million.
Construction began in July, and the first customer was connected on October 17, 2019.
January-February: Homes continue to be connected throughout the town as each "Fiber Service Area" is completed.
March: The distribution network of fiber was substantially completed, passing every home in town, with spare fibers for future construction. Covid-19 pandemic restrictions temporarily ceased new connection. Assistant MLP Manager Brian Hawthorne worked with Whip City Fiber to develop an interim "Team Box" exterior installation solution which allowed homes to be connected without any technicians accessing the interior of the house.
May-September: Interior installations resumed with new health and safety protocols. By September, nearly all homes which had requested service were connected.
November: Of the 397 premises identified, 270 were installed and actively taking service, 5 had been installed but were not currently taking service, 43 had a "cold drop" to the exterior of the building, and 22 premises were not currently inhabitable (old cabins, etc.). Plainfield qualified for an additional $139,000 in grant funds from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, bringing our total state grants to $789,000.
December: Final deadline of 12/31/2020 set for subsidized installations.
January: Project is substantially complete! As of January 31, 2021 the Town Hall, Town Offices/Library, Public Safety Complex, Highway Department and Police Department buildings are connected to the network and to each other. Eight businesses and nonprofits are receiving service, along with 262 residential customers, for a 69% service take rate. 46 premises have cold drops (fiber from street to outside of premise), and 6 have complete drops but no current active subscription. Therefore 83% of premises are connected to the network and 17% of premises are not yet connected to the network and will be upon receipt of application for service.
FY2021 Priorities Mid-Year Report