Peterborough’s plan to connect unserved fifth of town to broadband internet

  • The Peterborough Town House Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/9/2021 9:34:53 AM

Peterborough’s path to fiber internet looks different from surrounding towns. The town is poised to vote on an article that would spend $262,288 to provide fiber internet to the 20% of its residents underserved and unserved by high speed internet at Town Meeting this year. Although Peterborough joins neighboring towns Temple, Greenfield, and Jaffrey in voting on a contract with Consolidated Communications this year, Peterborough won’t be bonding, unlike most other towns that have pursued a municipal broadband rollout in the past two years.

Why no bond? Effectively, the only difference between Peterborough’s proposal and the popular municipal bonding route is that Peterborough doesn’t have to pay interest, Community and Economic Development Coordinator Karen Hatcher said. The cost of wiring 20% of the town’s residences was low enough that the town could absorb it without taking on the long-term debt of a bond, she said. The proposal before voters specifies that users of the fiber internet installs would be paying the installation costs back to the town over time via an $8.50 user fee, Hatcher said. Comcast submitted a $1.1 million proposal to connect the same areas, Hatcher said.

“We will be building fiber in the “served” areas on our own dime (not funded by the bond), so those that live in the served areas will also have an opportunity to be on the new fiber network,” Consolidated representative Jeff McIver II said in an email. This is great news for internet subscribers who might have copper DSL and just barely meet the standard for broadband internet, Hatcher said, a speed that can leave something to be desired. “On paper, what they’re offering is substantially improved over what’s being offered now,” she said.

The decision to not hold dedicated public forums about the broadband proposal came from Peterborough’s longstanding attention to the issue, Hatcher said. “We understood where the problems were,” she said. “We had done our work,” including issuing a survey several years ago and frequent direct communications with residents most invested in the rollout.

Hatcher has been communicating with residents who have been “letting us know their displeasure with the current situation” of internet options for the past year, she said, and the Peterborough community at large can comment on the proposal during virtual Town Meeting procedures. Residents may attend a live virtual meeting on March 30, which will be followed by another meeting on April 6. Residents may vote on the warrant as well as local elections on Tuesday, May 11.


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