Local towns are in various phases of broadband rollout

  • Park Ranger Mary Shotton checks in visitors to Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey at the park headquarters entrance.  – STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

  • Park Ranger Mary Shotton checks in visitors to Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey at the park headquarters entrance.  – STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

  • Park Ranger Mary Shotton checks in visitors to Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey at the park headquarters entrance.  – STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

  • Park Ranger Mary Shotton checks in visitors to Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey at the park headquarters entrance.  – Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Monadnock State Park store manager Caroline Hill uses the internet for all sales and transactions at the park’s headquarters.  – STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/7/2022 2:16:21 PM
Modified: 2/7/2022 2:14:40 PM

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey started to make changes to how it welcomed day visitors – such as requiring pre-registration.

The changes significantly increased the amount the park relied on the internet, which wouldn’t have been so much of an issue, said Assistant Park Manager Logan Thorner, if that internet was adequate. But with park staff struggling with internet speed of 15 megabits per second [Mbps], Monadnock State Park is one of many Jaffrey properties looking hopefully toward the fiber infrastructure rollout already underway.

Jaffrey is one of several towns in the Monadnock Region that took advantage of a recent change in the law, which allows towns to make private partnerships with corporations to ensure their residents have access to broadband internet.

Like several of its near neighbors, Jaffrey contracted with Consolidated Communications for a buildout of its new fiber network, Fidium, after approving $1.2 million in funds for the infrastructure at Town Meeting 2021.

Thorner said for Monadnock State Park, it was usual to have an online registration system for overnight campers, but since March of 2020, that reservation system has been expanded to help the park deal with a huge influx of visitors looking for something to do amid lockdown.

It’s a convention they’ve kept, Thorner said, because of the advantages it offers to being able to plan for the flow of crowds and managing parking, but it requires an internet connection to check in visitors.

“That obviously came with logistical challenges on the ground and in the parks,” Thorner said.

The internet is used for the reservation system, and also to process payments for all sales and transactions, as well as for emergency communications, Thorner said, but the park is limited by its current internet access.

“On a good day, it’s 15 Mbps– on a really good day,” Thorner said. “There can also be really bad days where it can be much less than that.”

Slow internet speed has limited other options, such as the possibility of offering Wi-Fi to visitors at the park headquarters, which is something that has been discussed in the past, but never been a viable option, Thorner said.

Thorner said signing up for a fiber plan could be a game-changer.

“Most of our parks in the state don’t have anything close to fiber or the speeds that are going to be available in Jaffrey,” Thorner said. “We’re one of the first parks to be able to jump on it, which is great.”

Other residents in Jaffrey are already seeing the benefits, as hookups to the service began last month. Kyra Lewis said her household doesn’t have heavy internet needs, but she and her fiance still jumped at the chance for a fiber installation.

“We were still able to watch Netflix and do everything we needed to do, but obviously the fiber was going to be much better,” Lewis said.

Among the first to be hooked up, Lewis said the process went smoothly for her household, despite some stumbling blocks caused by winter weather. The underground conduit to the house was frozen, but they were able to use hanging wires to get their fiber hooked up until the spring, when the wires will be moved to the underground conduit.

“So far, the service has been wonderful. We get good speed, and a great picture [on Netflix],” Lewis said. “It’s a much better service.”

Peterborough is in a similar stage to Jaffrey with its own fiber buildout, with the construction of the system complete and orders being accepted now.

Other Monadnock towns are also awaiting their own connections. Jessica Hipp, chair of Temple’s Broadband Committee, said the town is on the cusp of seeing its first customers have access to the new fiber network.

Temple, like many rural towns, has access to higher speeds in the town center, but the outskirts are lacking. Hipp said she became interested in the process when she and her husband, who both work remotely, were struggling with their internet access.

“It was a nightmare, and untenable,” Hipp said. Her family ultimately chose to pay privately for better internet to be run to their home, at a considerable cost. Even then, she said, it was more than a year before the work was done and their service saw the upgrade.

“It was one headache after the next, and I didn’t want anyone else to have to deal with that,” she said.

Hipp said the buildout portion of the Temple fiber infrastructure is complete, and residents are expected to start being hooked up in February or March.

Greenfield, similarly, is in phase four of the construction of its fiber system, where customers can pre-order their service in anticipation of installations within the next 45 days.

In Dublin, the town’s broadband committee has essentially disbanded after the conclusion of its own broadband project, according to former chair Sturdy Thomas.Thomas has been on the new service for a year, having upgraded from a 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speed to a 250 Mbps service for both upload and download.

“I would strongly recommend it,” Thomas said. “For me, it’s been almost seamless. We’ve been on it a while, and I’ve had phenomenal service.”

Similarly Rindge and Mason have completed their buildouts and installations for interested customers.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

 


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