Mount Washington Goes Gigabit
With Support of the Commonwealth and the MBI, the Previously Unserved Town Launches New Fiber-Optic Broadband Network
One of the highlights of FY2018 for the MBI was the launch of the second network under the Last Mile program, the new fiber-to-the-home network in Mount Washington, Mass. The community is the third smallest in the Commonwealth when ranked by population (158) and the smallest in Berkshire County, situated at the far southwest corner of the state, abutting Connecticut to the south and New York State to the west.
Launched in late 2017, the new network deliver gigabit connectivity to the small town, building off of the connection to the MassBroadband 123 fiber-optic ‘middle mile,’ which connected public facilities in the town when it was completed in 2014. Managed by volunteers in the town, construction of the network was overseen by private companies and the network is now managed by Crocker Communications, the town’s Internet Service Provider, and [company X], which manages the technical aspects of the network and maintenance of the miles of fiber strung throughout the town.
Mount Washington is the second active network supported by the Commonwealth’s Last Mile program, following the launch of Leverett’s municipal fiber-to-the-home network in late 2015. Mount Washington received two rounds of Last Mile program support for construction of the network, including a grant of $230,000 from the MBI in June 2016 and a follow on award of $222,000 from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development’s Last Mile Infrastructure grant program in May 2017.
In an article just prior to the launch, Mount Washington Selectboard member Gail Garrett lauded the network’s impact on local real estate, noting to the Berkshire Eagle in September 2017 that homes in the town had received "great interest because of broadband.” In a separate Eagle article in May 2018, Selectboard chairman Brian Tobin noted that while cellular service is spotty in the heavily forested town, he laid claim to Mount Washington having the “fastest internet in Massachusetts” and boasted that speeds in the tiny town easily beat out what’s available at Tobin’s other residence - an apartment in Manhattan!
Governor Baker also celebrated the network’s launch during his State of the Commonwealth address in January 2018, where he singled out Mt. Washington high school student Sarah Beckwith. The Governor noted that Sarah used to have to sit in a car outside of the town library in order to access the public WiFi, one of the few spots in town with consistent internet prior to the new network’s launch. A few weeks later, Sarah got the opportunity to visit with the Governor at the State House, along with another broadband advocate, State Representative ‘Smitty’ Pignatelli, who captured a photo from the visit.
Students like Sarah can now take online classes, watch educational YouTube videos (and the occasional streaming TV show), or submit college applications online from their homes, no longer having to connect via slow satellite connections or while sitting in car outside the public library. It’s clear that for one of the Commonwealth’s smallest communities, the switch to gigabit-level broadband is already having a very real impact on the town.