WEYMOUTH – Mayor Robert Hedlund wants the town to develop a plan for launching its own municipal fiber network to provide townwide internet access.
Hedlund will submit a proposal to the Weymouth Town Council asking to use about $25,000 to fund a master plan as the first step in the process. The money would come from the host community agreement with Algonquin Gas Transmission, the company that owns the natural gas compressor station.
“Overall, the ultimate goal is quality improvement for residents,” Hedlund said in a statement. “A municipal fiber network is not only more cost-effective in terms of competition for internet service providers, but also is more resilient in the event of a public safety concern or weather event. This would benefit not only the individual resident but also town services and our larger critical infrastructure such as the power plant or South Shore Hospital.”
Weymouth is currently served by Comcast. The town entered into a 10-year agreement with the company before Hedlund took office. As a result, residents experience undesirable coverage options and rates because of the lack of competition from other providers, officials say.
Cities and towns across the country are launching municipal broadband to improve infrastructure, close gaps in coverage and reduce costs. The community typically builds and maintains the infrastructure – things such as fiber optic cables and telephone poles – which internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon then use to serve customers.
Communities that operate their own networks can see other benefits, such as free public wireless internet, traffic signal synchronization, public safety video cameras and real-time parking information, advocates say.
The master plan would explore how Weymouth could implement a municipal fiber network, the cost and funding model needed for the infrastructure build-out and if there is enough buy-in from the public to make it feasible.
The $25,000 would allow the town to hire a consultant to conduct townwide surveys to gauge interest and develop an implementation plan with long-term cost projections.
Hedlund would also create an advisory committee of town staff, residents and school and council representatives.
Quincy is also planning its own broadband network. Hedlund said he has been in communication with Mayor Tom Koch, and the two communities could leverage their combined customer base for better pricing or to reduce maintenance costs.
If the town council approves the funding, the town would issue a request for proposals to hire a consultant this spring. The study would take about six to eight months to complete, with final recommendations presented in late fall.
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