Rindge Teltech committee backs Consolidated Communications proposal

  • Craig Clark and Phil Motta of the Rindge Teltech committee discuss options for broadband services in Rindge. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • The Rindge Telecommunications Committee met Monday to discuss proposals from internet providers willing to provide high-speed internet in town. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Phil Motta, Karl Pruter and Tim Wessels discuss proposals from internet providers willing to provide high-speed internet in town. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/18/2019 5:30:02 PM

The Rindge Telecommunications Committee is backing a proposal from Consolidated Communications to bond and extend high-speed internet to 100 percent of Rindge homes.

Last year, after the state approved a bill allowing towns to partner with telecommunications companies to improve their internet service, the Telecommunications Committee began looking at committing to a bond to bring broadband to all of Rindge. The committee solicited proposals from 10 companies, and received offers from two: Consolidated Communications and WiValley Broadband.

After discussion at its meeting Monday, the committee unanimously agreed to support the Consolidated Communications proposal. However, the final say will remain in the hands of the Select Board, which is expected to take a vote on the matter during its meeting Wednesday.

Committee members said that though the Consolidated Communications proposal is more expensive, it also provides a more reliable, higher-speed option that would cover the entire town.

“We know where we are right off the bat with fiber,” Committee Chair Phil Motta said during Monday’s meeting.

Here’s how the Consolidated Communications proposal would work:

The town of Rindge would have to approve a 20-year bond for $2.57 million to build out the infrastructure. Consolidated Communications would contribute $2.46 million of its own funds.

The bond wouldn’t be paid back through taxes, but through a service fee from those who sign onto the service. The fee would be capped at $9.50. If the service fee was not enough to cover the bond payment, Consolidated Communications would pay the balance. Residents are not required to connect to the new system and can keep their current service if they wish. 

For that, over the next two years, Consolidated Communications would build out a fiber network providing access to all Rindge streets. Customers would have to pay for their own hookups after the first 150 feet.

Residents have options to purchase packages with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second for both download and upload.

The committee favored this proposal over WiValley’s which would have provided fiber internet only where fiber already exists, and would erect 11 new poles in town to provide broadband through wi-fi. WiValley’s proposal would not guarantee speeds, and would only cover 96 percent of homes in Rindge, which committee members said were factors in their decision to promote the Consolidated Communications proposal.

The WiValley proposal was both cheaper, requiring Rindge to take out a $950,000 bond, and would have a shorter build-out time, with the project estimated to be completed within a year. However, the maximum speed offered by the plan would be 100 megabits per second for download and upload, and not every home would have that option.

“I don’t think people want to go through all this, just to find out they’re only getting 25 megabits per second [download speed],” Motta said. “It costs less, but it also provides a lot less.”

The committee hopes to see a warrant article to bond for the project in front of voters this spring, but admitted it would be a tight turnaround. An article would have to be drafted in time for a bond hearing in mid-January, meaning the Select Board would have to approve the proposal and the committee would have to begin work on a final contract with the selected company in short order.

Because the proposal requires Rindge to pass a bond, voters would have to approve the measure by a three-fifths majority at the polls in March, which committee members acknowledged will be a high hurdle to pass. However, they said, because of Rindge’s rural nature, with a spread-out population, this may be the only way to entice an internet provider to contribute to a high-speed infrastructure.

“This is really about giving people choices,” Motta said. 

The Select Board is scheduled to meet Wednesday to vote on whether or not to accept the Telecommunication Committee’s recommendation of the Consolidated Communication proposal. 

 

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




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