Leverett Highlights Impact of Municipal Broadband Network at Launch Event

Friday, October 2, 2015

Leverett Highlights Impact of Municipal Broadband Network at Launch Event

  • 650 out of 800 Homes Have Taken Service on New Fiber-Optic Network;
  • New Gigabit-Enabled Fiber-Optic Network Builds Off of State/Federal Investments;
  • Commonwealth Announces Over $800K in ‘Last Mile’ Funds Invested in Project.  

LEVERETT – Citizens, elected officials, and executives from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts gathered today in Leverett, Mass., to celebrate the launch of the LeverettNet municipal fiber-optic broadband network, a new infrastructure project that offers gigabit-level Internet connectivity to every home and business in the town. The launch celebration, held at the Leverett Elementary School, highlighted the impact that broadband access will have on the community of 1,800 located in Western Massachusetts, including easier access to medical information, the increased ability of local students to complete online homework assignments, and the added opportunity for local small business owners and entrepreneurs to reach new customers via the web. 

The network is the first ‘Last Mile’ project built off of MassBroadband 123, the 1,200 mile fiber-optic ‘Middle Mile’ network jointly funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program, which connects over 1,000 public institutions in 120-plus towns in Western and Central Massachusetts, including Leverett. Recognizing the opportunity to address the digital divide in the town, Leverett’s citizens and town leaders mobilized to build off of the new fiber-optic backbone, creating the Leverett Broadband Committee and Leverett Municipal Light Plant (MLP), the entities which oversaw the approval, financing, contracting, and construction of the town-built network.

"This is a fantastic day for Leverett. Our economic development and competitiveness as a region is directly tied to our ability to harness the power of the internet," said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).  "Today's announcement will allow more small businesses to tap into the global economy, expand opportunities in Western Massachusetts for businesses to grow while closing the digital divide in Massachusetts. Leverett is the first town to complete a "Last Mile" project and I remain very excited by the possibilities that faster internet will bring to our region."

"I congratulate the citizens and town officials of Leverett for their vision, hard work, and financial investment that has made high-speed broadband service a reality for the community,” said State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington).  “The town's efforts will bring new opportunities for education, business, and quality of life which makes this project an inspiring model for other unserved rural communities to follow.  Leverett's partnership with the Commonwealth has produced a great result, and now its citizens can enjoy the fruits of their labor and investment for many years to come."

Since the start of construction, over 650 of 800 Leverett households have taken service on the network, highlighting the strong demand for Internet connectivity in the town. Prior to the network’s launch, residents relied on non-broadband technologies such as dial-up, satellite, or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) to access the Internet, but are now served by a complete fiber-optic network capable of delivering speeds of 1 gigabit per second.

Peter d’Errico of the Leverett Broadband Committee commented, “The project has been huge for the town and mostly undertaken by our volunteer broadband committee, which met weekly for four years to make it happen.   With each phase taken a step at a time we have managed to complete something we all thought was a dream when it was first conceived.  Now that it’s complete, residents are thrilled to see what they can do at home on the Internet.”

At the event, executives from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI) announced $806,000 in Last Mile grants from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to Leverett to help fund the completion of the municipal network and to connect the town’s homes and businesses. These funds include a preliminary planning grant of $40,000 in 2011 and $766,000 in new state capital funds being invested through the Last Mile Program, which were awarded in August 2015.

“It is exciting and rewarding to see the realization of a major Last Mile broadband project like LeverettNet,” said Eric Nakajima, Director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech. “Excellent local leadership, broad community support, and a special partnership with the Commonwealth have allowed this town to build itself essential 21st century infrastructure.  Leverett shows it can be done.  We look forward to building on their success in partnership with towns throughout Western Massachusetts.”

"NTIA primarily funded middle-mile highways that connected community institutions and served as a catalyst to the deployment of high-speed last-mile networks to homes and businesses," said Sandeep Taxali, Senior Policy Analyst & Broadband Development Officer for the US Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), "We are so pleased with Leverett being the first town in Western Massachusetts to deploy a fiber-based solution off the BTOP investment.  We salute the many community champions, and public and private stakeholders, which came together and worked tirelessly to have Leverett join an increasing number of American communities with one gigabit capacity."

The event was designed as a community-focused celebration and featured remarks from several citizens in the town who identified the positive benefits that broadband will have on day-to-day life. During the launch, town officials also took the time to thank the citizens of Leverett for the funding provided by several town meeting votes.

The LeverettNet network was constructed by Millennium Communications Group. “Make Ready” work on the poles began in the fall of 2013.  Greenfield-based Crocker Communications is the Internet Service Provider for the network, managing customer signups and market research, while network operation and maintenance will be overseen by Holyoke Gas & Electric. 

"On behalf of the Board of Commissioners, General Manager James Lavelle, Telecom Operations Manager Kirk Jonah, and all our staff, Holyoke Gas & Electric extends a sincere congratulations to the Town of Leverett for the commissioning of its fiber optic broadband network, the first ever in Western Mass.," stated Tim Haas, the Chief Network Engineer in the Telecom Division at Holyoke Gas & Electric and the Owner's Project Manager for the Leverett project. "HG&E graciously thanks the town of Leverett for allowing HG&E to partner with it on this extraordinary journey."

The event concluded with the cutting of a ribbon tied around one of two ‘Points of Presence’, network facilities that deliver the Internet connection to the new network, which marked the official launch of the network.