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New Greenfield broadband committee members joined after work-from-home frustration

  • Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/6/2020 4:12:02 PM

Greenfield is the latest local town to form a broadband committee, as existing infrastructure proved insufficient for some attempting to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Select Board established the broadband committee on June 17, with committee members Tom Bascom, Nanette Perrotte, and Caitlin Lawler. They’ve launched a survey on internet use for residents and are holding weekly dial-in meetings to update residents and answer questions, following an inaugural virtual information session last Tuesday.

The committee will likely follow the prerequisite steps for municipal bonding as outlined in SB 170, but they’re also following the progress of satellite-based broadband venture Starlink and discussing how some residents have already achieved faster internet by using cell phone hotspots or paying out of pocket for fiber buildouts, Bascom said. “Everything’s on the table, anything that will improve it,” he said.

The town conducted a broadband survey in 2014, Bascom said, but no providers stepped up with feasible solutions at the time. “To the surprise of no one, broadband service in Greenfield… hasn’t got any better,” he said, and the first step the committee is taking is to update the survey.

Earlier this year, the Select Board tapped Bascom to follow other town’s broadband meetings because of his personal quest for high speed internet, he said. Bascom is a self-employed tech consultant, and said his home’s poor internet service forced him to take action in 2014. “I basically couldn’t continue to work from home,” he said. Before he committed to renting a better-connected office in Milford, he attempted to determine how much it would cost to run fiber internet to his home. “The hard part was getting them to even talk to me,” he said of area providers. “When they did return a call, they wouldn’t answer any questions,” he said. One company quoted him three million dollars after he pressed them to give him a quote. “They were going to have to run it from Keene just for me,” he said. Bascom ultimately paid Fairpoint to set up his home as a commercial connection, running fiber half a mile to one of Fairpoint’s existing lines. “It cost me a fortune,” Bascom said, but that it kept him from having to rent an office. The whole process gave him a familiarity with the setup of local internet companies, he said, putting him in a prime position for the current task.

“Complaining is how we got picked,” Perrotte said. Her company, LUX Lifestyle, had to transition to entirely online offerings due to COVID-19 and her internet couldn’t keep up, she said. “I spent a lot of money upping as much of the hardware as I possibly can,” she said, “but the wire that we have in my house cannot handle it.” A breaking point came in May, she said, when she had to cancel a week-long jazz workshop she’d been scheduled to present for a school in New York. “I had to tear up the check,” she said, because she couldn’t get her internet to work. She contacted the Select Board and was introduced to Bascom soon after.

Residents can call into meetings with the committee every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Bascom said, where they can ask questions and find out what’s going on. Links are available on the Greenfield Meeting Place Facebook page, and residents can also get in touch at  greenfieldbroadband@gmail.com. The new broadband survey can be completed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LT52PVL 




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