In studying the role of municipalities in broadband infrastructure deployment, it is important to remember that municipalities act with a public motive and not a profit motive. Municipalities invest in schools, roads, hospitals, senior centers, marinas, airports, and convention centers, all assets that positively differentiate one community from another. In those areas, direct investment by municipalities is accepted and indeed often encouraged, even though private firms can (and do) build private schools, hospitals, health clubs, marinas, and conference centers that coexist with municipal infrastructure.
WiredWest Makes Significant Progress in 2012
Sixteen new towns became members in 2012, which brings the grand total to 42. Business planning progressed during 2012. From the WiredWest newletter:
Significant work was undertaken in 2012 to enable financing and buildout of the network. That work was made possible by grants from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Central Berkshire Fund, in addition to support from donations, Cooperative membership fees, and thousands of volunteer hours.
The group also conducted a market survey in member towns. WiredWest confimed that demand is strong in the region. The organization is using the information to determine what services to offer and to support pro-forma financial statements, developed with help from groups that know the ins and outs of community broadband:
WiredWest has created comprehensive pro-forma financial statements with input from other municipal fiber networks and appropriate financial expertise. The leadership team has met with a number of public and private financing sources and advisers to refine our financing strategy and put the project on track for financing in 2013.
WiredWest also commenced a Support Card Campaign in its member towns. Potential customers, commercial and residential, shared their support and the results will help with network design. The campaign will provide potential funders evidence of interest in future network services. Residents and businesses can still complete a Support Card and are encouraged to do so ASAP.
The organization completed network planning, also necessary to secure financing. There is now a database of detailed maps of the WiredWest towns. Network design options and cost estimates are being evaluated.
Plans for the next year focus on financing. From the newsletter:
WiredWest will be focused on finalizing the business plan, with a particular focus on the pro-forma financial statements, final network design and other information needed for financing, including the final numbers for the Support Card campaign.
WiredWest will also continue working with public and private financing sources to determine the best and most expedient strategy for financing the network. We will also continue to solicit grants and donations for interim funding, and will be completing an economic impact study to quantify the regional economic impact of the network, which will be important to garnering grant support.