WEST SPRINGFIELD — Plans to offer municipal internet service in West Springfield have taken on more urgency with Comcast’s announcement that it will cap home internet usage.
“But it’s still Comcast, there is still frustration with it,” he said. “I’ve been hearing about more outages. And then the announcement last week.”
Comcast plans to cap internet data in the Northeast for the first time starting early next year. Anyone who uses more than 1.2 terabytes of data a month will be charged $10 per additional 50 gigabytes of data up to $100.
Kristen Roberts, Comcast’s Connecticut-based spokeswoman, said customers will be alerted as to their internet usage now. The first time they would be charged a penalty is for the month of March, on their April bill. This gives them time to change their usage or upgrade their plans.
And 1.2 terabytes are a lot of internet, she said, passing on data from Philadelphia-based Comcast. It represents about 500 hours, or more than 20 days, of high-definition television.
But some customers with multiple people at home, each using lots of internet, are already complaining online.
The change affects towns and cities where Comcast is the cable provider in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, West Virginia, Washington D.C., and parts of North Carolina and Ohio, according to the company.
In West Springfield, Reichelt said there was a favorable response early in 2020 to a community survey gauging interest in municipal internet. That was before lockdowns and school closures related to COVID-19 led to more people working, studying and being entertained at home and doing so via the internet.
“Everyone says they want to have municipal internet, but is there a willingness to pay for it?” he said.
In Westfield, unlimited Whip City Fiber from Westfield Gas and Electric costs $69.95 a month. Customers save by “cutting the cord,” or transitioning from pay TV to streaming video. They watch TV shows, sports and movies over the internet with a smart TV or a streaming device like a Roku. Programming is paid for separately through services like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and SlingTV.
In West Springfield, Reichelt plans to form a task force soon and identify a neighborhood where the service could be deployed quickly and there is enough interest for a pilot project. He hopes to get the pilot project started in 2021.
Whip City Fiber would be the internet service provider, selling the internet service to West Springfield, which would build and own the network of fiber optic cables that would bring internet service into people’s homes.
If the plan comes to fruition, West Springfield pay to build the network with a bond, then use customer fees to pay back the loan.
Westfield spent $15 million in bonded money on its network in 2017. Reichelt said Westfield is bigger in terms of square mileage but had the advantage of already owning the poles and wires for its municipal electric utility. West Springfield would have to work out deals with existing utilities.
Whip City Fiber has already branched out to towns looking to upgrade their internet. Like West Springfield plans to do, these towns own their network and buy internet for it from Whip City.
The service is now in Alford, Ashfield, Blandford, Chesterfield, Colrain, Cummington, Heath, Leyden, New Ashford, New Salem, Otis, Plainfield, Rowe, Washington, Wendell and Windsor.
Westfield Gas and Electric spokeswoman Lisa Stow said Whip City Fiber is getting ready to move forward in Becket, Goshen and Charlemont as well.
Website of source