Temple and Francestown progress in search of better internet

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/1/2020 9:49:24 PM
Modified: 1/1/2020 9:49:04 PM

Temple and Francestown broadband committees are joining the ranks of area towns seeking better access to broadband. 

In Temple, the broadband subcommittee of the town’s Community Planning Committee hopes to circulate a survey to residents in January, and follow Rindge, Hancock, and Dublin in conducting a Request For Information from broadband providers soon after.

“We are attending as many meetings and informational sessions as possible, including the SWRPC Monadnock Broadband Group meetings,” Community Planning Committee chair Christine Robidoux said.

“They have been really helpful in guiding our process,” she said.

This year, the Community Planning Committee expects to hold public forums related to broadband, as well as affordable housing.

In Francestown, resident Alfred Eisenberg said he listened when he heard each town needed a “champion” to spearhead internet negotiations at the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee meeting on broadband in September. Eisenberg said he first started researching the issue in the spring before he’d even heard of SB 170, the bill that allows towns to bond in order to provide broadband internet coverage. His interest is personal: Eisenberg is a software engineer, and has been working at home for nine years. He uses a satellite to get internet.

“It doesn't sound like a lot, but every connection takes an extra half to one second,” which can really change your experience on a website that might involve 100 connections, he said. “It’s not good for audio and video conversations.”

This year, he said he managed to form “unofficial broadband committee” in town, and the Select Board has given them their blessing to start collecting information. Eisenberg said he’s been scheduling meetings with internet providers Comcast and Consolidated Communications, and hopes to go through the information gathering process in a way that allows the town to be eligible for bonding, as Rindge, Hancock, and Dublin have done. By his estimate, “somewhere between 10 and 20 percent [of households] have been left out in the cold without real broadband” in town.

He said he hopes to begin collecting data in Jan. 2020 to generate a map identifying the underserved households, and a survey to determine the number of residents who would want to improve their internet services. 

Eisenberg said he’s keeping an eye on various broadband funding sources, including the USDA’s ReConnect program. He’s also got an eye on the stars, or, at least, low-orbit satellites.

Companies like SpaceX and OneWeb are accelerating their launches of what may ultimately be thousands of satellites, Eisenberg said, that are supposed to be capable of providing broadband internet to vast swaths of the populated world.

“I'm geeking out on it all the time,” he said. “At some point the [conventional broadband] providers are going to start taking that stuff seriously, and they're gonna need to compete with that.”

He said he hopes that Francestown can benefit from whatever the best and most cost-effective technology emerges in the coming year – whether that’s fiber to the home, or broadband from satellite.


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