West Stockbridge Benefits from Increased Broadband
Governor and Lt. Governor Hear About Impact of Expanded Connectivity on Small Businesses During May 2017 Tour
In early August 2016, as part of the relaunched Last Mile program, the MBI announced a grant to Charter Communications to upgrade and extend broadband connectivity in three unserved communities in Berkshire County - Hinsdale, Lanesborough, and West Stockbridge. Under the terms of the deal, the grant would help upgrade Charter’s TV-only cable network in roughly 80-90 percent of existing households and businesses, helping bring an all-digital system capable of reaching broadband speeds (25 megabits per second for downloads & 3 megabits per second for uploads), more than the existing DSL network, which only reached a portion of the premises in each town. The deal also included the expansion of broadband to the remaining premises in the three communities, which will ensure high-speed connectivity to 440 additional homes by February 2018.
As a follow up to that award, on May 16, 2017, the Baker-Polito Administration and the MBI arranged a visit to the Town of West Stockbridge to meet with small business owners and impacted residents to gauge the impact that increased connectivity has on their lives. The walking tour, which took place during Small Business Month in the Commonwealth, was led by Joe Roy, Jr., owner of The Floor Store and a member of the West Stockbridge Business Association. The Floor Store was the first of five businesses the Governor and Lt. Governor visited on the tour, which allowed Roy to highlight the impact that Charter’s upgraded connections were having on his business and on the community overall.
“Each of the 36 client contracts we currently have open was negotiated online,” said Joe Roy, Jr. “The new high-speed connection allows us to process those contracts more quickly and to send large files more dependably. It has also made it possible for folks to get television and telephone service over the internet and allowed second homeowners to work remotely more reliably, allowing them to stay longer in West Stockbridge.”
The Governor and Lt. Governor were also joined on the tour by State Senator Adam G. Hinds and State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, Deputy Secretary Carolyn Kirk from the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, Charter executives, and leaders of the MBI.
While the full three-town project is not expected to finish until FY2018, the impact of the rolling upgrades were clearly apparent as the officials met with small business owners.
How the MBI’s Grant is Helping Small Businesses in West Stockbridge
Below is a roundup of the impact that broadband expansion has had on several West Stockbridge businesses:
THE FLOOR STORE
Expanded Connectivity Powers Business Transactions
The expanded broadband availability critical to dependable business communication, as The Floor Store handles roughly 90% of its transactions over the internet. This includes communication via email and their website, sending online quotes, exchanging contracts, as well as managing receivables, orders, and billing.
SHAKER MILL TAVERN FAMILY SMOKE HOUSE
Investing in More Efficient Technology, Made Possible by Enhanced Connectivity
Jim Hallock, owner of the Shaker Mill Tavern Family Smoke House told the Governor and Lt. Governor about the challenges his restaurant faced before the new broadband was installed.
“Well...we had DSL. My whole computer system works on the internet. DSL was so random - we would have 100 people in the restaurant, all of a sudden [it] would go down. We would lose everything, we couldn’t sell a thing to a customer and we couldn’t move tickets.”
Hallock went on to talk about the improvements day-to-day, but also to his monthly bottom line.
“Now, having broadband, there’s no more interruptions,” Hallock said. “There’s also big savings....$350 a month.”
STONE HOUSE PROPERTIES
Helping Attract New Residents to the Region
Stone House Properties manages three real estate offices in The Berkshires, including one on Main Street in West Stockbridge.
Owners Randy Thunfors, Sheila Thunfors, and Suzanne Crerar and their real estate teams list available properties on their website, allowing them to market to buyers both near and far. Broadband is critical when trying to market a home, particularly if the buyers are used to having the convenience of high-speed internet in their current home. Broadband connections are particularly important for families with school-age children or those looking to start a home-based business.
“Since we’re in the sale of real estate, that’s incredibility important,” said Randy Thunfors. “It’s one of the first questions we get now – ‘do you have it’?”
NO. SIX DEPOT COFFEE ROASTERY, CAFE & GALLERY
Marketing Berkshires Products Online & Offering Customers Connectivity
This 3 1/2 year old restaurant depends on reliable internet to process credit card charges and for their online-based wholesale business, helping them execute both web sales and to expedite shipping. In addition to their whole roasted coffee and tea, No. Six Depot also sells locally-made products from around the region. In addition to helping with sales, the expanded broadband access also allows them to offer wireless connectivity to their customers, an important feature for a café in the 21st Century.
Lisa Landry, co-owner of No. Six Depot, added: “It’s an economic development thing, it really is. I think businesses will come here if they know they can rely on it.”