WESTBOROUGH – The Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI) has selected a vendor to begin pole surveys in unserved Western Mass towns, a critical first step in the pre-construction phase which ensures that utility poles and other infrastructure can support the build out of broadband infrastructure in the region.
Five towns are in the first group where pole surveys will take place and represent those towns that have either exited the MBI’s town readiness process or will exit shortly. The towns include Ashfield, Egremont, New Salem, Shutesbury, and Wendell. Completing this pole survey process is an important step towards the eventual construction of ‘Last Mile’ networks in those towns that are seeking design and construction support from the MBI. While these five towns constitute the first group utilizing MBI’s support to move forward, the MBI has structured its pole survey program to allow additional towns to move seamlessly into pole survey work, without additional delay. For towns proceeding towards a town–owned solution, the pole survey work is followed by design engineering, make ready, and construction steps.
The MBI’s selected vendor, Osmose Utility Services, commenced pole data collection services in the Town of Ashfield on Monday, October 3rd, and will start in Egremont on Monday October 10th. Work is expected to last 4 to 5 weeks in each town. Dates for pole data collections services in the next round of Last Mile towns have not been finalized, but should commence within the next four to six weeks.
The pole survey process involves in-person technical surveys of every pole. If a town chooses to enter into an agreement to pursue a project with MBI, then MBI will work to coordinate with the utilities that own the poles to draft and submit applications to place new fiber-optic lines and other hardware on the poles. During pole survey work, residents may see technicians driving through their towns, collecting a series of data on each pole. This includes: photos of each pole and associated hardware, detailed height measurements, an accurate plot of a pole’s location using GPS technology, and the pole’s overall condition, including an engineering analysis of the pole’s ability to bear the weight of new broadband infrastructure.
Osmose was selected from a slate of Last Mile vendors that supplied competitive bids in response to the Pole Data Collection Services RFP issued at the end of June 2016. Osmose brings 80 years of experience providing pole data collection services and managed pole data collection services to support the design and construction of MassBroadband 123, the 1,200-mile fiber-optic ‘middle mile’ network completed by the MBI in early 2014.
The start of pole survey work highlights the continued forward momentum in the Last Mile program, which seeks to bring broadband access to unserved communities in Western and Central Massachusetts. The kickoff of pole survey work comes on the heels of several grant awards made since the MBI and the Baker-Polito Administration announced a new framework for implementing Last Mile broadband projects in unserved communities in early May 2016. Recent announcements include an MBI grant to support construction of a Fiber to the Home network in Mount Washington; a grant to Charter for expansion of cable networks in Hinsdale, Lanesborough, and West Stockbridge; and the announcement in early August of an award to Comcast to extend broadband networks in nine Western and Central Massachusetts communities.
Brian Noyes, MassTech/MBI
(508) 870-0312 X: 293, firstname.lastname@example.org