Rindge places internet bond on warrant for March Town Meeting

  • Rindge bond hearing on Wednesday with Selectmen, Teltech Committee and representatives from Consolidated Communications regarding  $2.6 million to build a fiber internet network in town. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Rindge bond hearing on Wednesday with Selectmen, Teltech Committee and representatives from Consolidated Communications regarding  $2.6 million to build a fiber internet network in town. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/17/2020 3:17:50 PM
Modified: 1/17/2020 3:16:55 PM

Rindge is solidifying a possible deal with Consolidated Communications to provide fiber internet in town, including an agreement to provide 1-gigabit service to town buildings for no cost.

During a bond hearing on Wednesday, the Select Board, Teltech Committee and representatives from Consolidated Communications answered questions from residents about what a partnership between the town and internet provider would look like, if voters approve $2.6 million to build a fiber internet network in town.

Voters must approve the bond by a 60 percent vote on March 10 to move the project forward. As that date approached, negotiations with Consolidated Communications has already begun.

Currently, only about 212, or 7.76 percent of Rindge homes have access to internet service that meets the federal standard of broadband – defined as at least 25 megabits of download speed and 3 megabits of upload speed. Following the Consolidated Communications buildout, every address would have access to up to 1 gigabit of speed for both download and upload.

The town would contribute $2.6 million, which would mainly contribute to the fiber buildout, while Consolidated Communications would contribute $2.5 million of its own funds for other equipment.

The bond would be payed back through a service charge, capped at $9.50 per month, to those who sign up for the new fiber internet. If there are not enough customers signed up to cover the bond payment, Consolidated Communications pays the difference.

“I’ll say that again,” said Teltech Committee member Tim Wessels, during a presentation on the project. “No property taxes will be used to pay the bond.”

Sample promotional rates provided by Consolidated Communications priced a package including 15 megabits of download and upload speed at $62.45 (including the service fee) per month. A 50 megabit package was priced at $72.95 per month, 100 megabits at $84.95 per month, and a 1-gigabit package would cost $97.95. Consolidated Communications Vice President of Consumer Products Rob Koester referred to those prices as a “worst-case scenario,” noting that services could be bundled with phone or television services for lower rates. In most cases, he said, residents would be able to double or triple their current speeds without paying much more than their current bill.

Consolidated Communications has committed to providing fiber service to every address in town, even those currently considered to be served by broadband currently, either through copper wire or fiber. That includes private road and dirt roads, Koester said.

“Everybody means everybody,” he said.

And while the contract includes a potential cost for bringing fiber from the road to homes, Koester said the currently technology means there are only very rare cases where residents will have to pay for a hookup, if they want to join the service. In almost all cases, the fiber wires can be run along telephone poles or pulled through conduits currently running copper wire for the internet.

Consolidated has agreed to provide 1-gigabit service to town buildings, such as the police, fire, library and town offices, for no charge as part of the agreement.

Residents questioned what would happen in the case Consolidated Communications went out of business or otherwise could not run the service any longer. Koester replied that in an absolute worst-case scenario, the town would still own the network, and could put out bids for a company to take up the service – which many service providers would jump on, he said.

Residents will vote on the bond during town voting on March 10 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Rindge Memorial School.

Rindge’s deliberative session is set for Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. at Rindge Memorial School.

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


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