Four-Town Network on Track to Close Digital Divide in Spring 2020

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Photos available upon request

 

Four-Town Network on Track to Close Digital Divide in Spring 2020

New regional wireless network garners high marks from initial customers

WESTBOROUGH, MASS. – WiValley-MA, Inc. (WiValley) has announced that the four-town wireless broadband network, funded by the Commonwealth’s Last Mile broadband program, is now on track to completion in the spring of 2020. Constructed by WiValley in partnership with OTELCO, the new internet service is closing the digital divide for business and residential customers in the Hilltowns of Florida, Hawley, Monroe, and Savoy.

By connecting across town lines, the regional network provides construction and service economies, efficient connections to the internet backbone, and reliable service via multiple paths. The new infrastructure is being funded by state broadband grants, with no town tax support, funding authorization or operational risk.  Most of the network infrastructure will be jointly owned by the towns. The $99.95 customer installation fee is being waived during the initial signup period.

A survey of initial customers conducted by town leaders garnered positive marks from all respondents, with glowing testimonials to the increased connectivity offered by the new regional service over their legacy dial-up, DSL, and satellite connections. The customers praised the network for being “more reliable” and stated that the WiValley and OTELCO “customer service is great.” Another customer said the new service was a great improvement in that they could “actually run multiple devices.” Some respondents flagged technical issues during the test phase and WiValley used this feedback to address the issues prior to wider rollout, which points to the spirit of partnership between the pilot customers and WiValley.

“It’s exciting to see the potential this network has to positively impact residents’ daily lives, as you read the comments from the pilot users,” stated Carolyn Kirk, Executive Director of the MassTech  Collaborative, the parent organization of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and the agency tasked with overseeing Last Mile investments and MassBroadband 123. “Gaining broadband level speeds through this type of network will continue the transformation for citizens, businesses, and students, we are seeing in Last Mile towns throughout the region, helping to enable everyday tasks that just weren’t possible before.”

“I have been involved in efforts to bring broadband to our local communities for at least the last 10 years,” said Lark Thwing, chair of the Four-town Broadband Committee. “In June of 2018 seven stakeholders came together to bring this vision to reality.

For the next nine months the stakeholders (the towns of Florida, Hawley, Monroe, and Savoy, plus WiValley, OTELCO and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, represented by MBI) worked to resolve all the legal and contractual issues necessary for the project to move into the construction phase.”

Thwing added, “There's no politics going on. The seven stakeholders move smoothly and quickly to reach decisions necessary to keep the project moving forward. This summer we experienced a delay of about 10 weeks due to weather conditions in the South that affected the availability of long length wood utility poles. We are back on track now and Design Nine, our project management firm, commented recently at a meeting that for an undertaking with so many stakeholders, we have moved at a very fast pace.”

Since the announcement of the Last Mile grant in April 2019 of up to $2.3 million to WiValley, the MBI has been assuring smooth implementation via project oversight and coordination with utilities and state agencies. The MBI will continue to leverage its relationship with the utilities to support the efficient and timely installation of new electrical services needed from the utilities at the transmitter sites.

Once complete, the network will reach over 1,000 potential customers.

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About the MBI

A division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) is working to extend high-speed Internet access to homes, businesses, schools, libraries, medical facilities, government offices, and other public places across the Commonwealth. Learn more at https://broadband.masstech.org.

About WiValley

WiValley (www.wivalley.com) is a leading regional provider committed to bringing affordable broadband solutions to 50+ communities in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont. WiValley leverages the strengths of both fiber and wireless technologies to engineer solutions for business and residential customers that address their future communications needs.

About OTELCO

OTELCO Inc., the four-town service provider, is among the top 25 largest local exchange carriers in the United States based on number of access lines, with customers in Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia. Residents of Florida, Hawley, Monroe, and Savoy can find details of the OTELCO internet and phone offerings and sign up to be notified when service is available at their location by visiting otelco.com/fhms.
 

Media contact:

Brian Noyes, MBI/MassTech

noyes (at) masstech.org, (508) 870-0312 X:293