Temple broadband committee fields resident concerns

  • Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/21/2020 4:28:49 PM

Temple residents got the first of several chances to raise questions and concerns to the town’s Broadband internet subcommittee at a Zoom meeting Thursday night.

Chair Jessica Hipp walked about 15 listeners through the subcommittee’s progress so far, including the results from the town-wide survey completed earlier this summer. The subcommittee’s goals are to bring broadband internet to areas of town where there’s currently none, increase competition among internet providers, and obtain grants from the state and other sources to subsidize the cost of broadband improvements, Hipp said.

There are a number of ways to go about improving the internet in town, but the group is making sure they’re meeting all requirements for municipal bonding in case the town opts to go that route, she said. To that extent, Consolidated Communications and Comcast responded to the town’s Request for Information earlier in the summer, a required prerequisite to municipal bonding. Consolidated has won the contract for town-wide buildouts in Mason, Dublin, Rindge, and others in New Hampshire already, Hipp said. The subcommittee is currently drafting a Request for Proposals with insights from towns that have already completed the process. Responses to RFP’s would flesh out the cost and logistics of a town-wide broadband rollout, she said, and that they will probably send out the RFP by October.

In the RFP, providers would be asked to address specific concerns already raised by Temple residents, Hipp said, including how far they would extend fiber up private drives for free, definitive answers on which roads in town are considered public or private, and how much power is required to use fiber internet on off-the-grid properties.

Resident Fiona Nixon’s concern was whether either provider would step their game up from their current level of customer service, or if they would continue to only meet guaranteed minimum internet speeds if they landed a fiber contract with the town. Subcommittee member Christine Robidoux said they had already spoken to Consolidated and Comcast about residents’ disappointment in both companies’ standard of customer service. Survey responders had even worse things to say about provider TDS, Robidoux said.

Fiber cable is much less prone to damage or interruptions due to weather, moisture, or shorts, Hipp added, and that Consolidated representatives had said the switch would heavily reduce the need for maintenance – response time for repairs was another concern mentioned.

There would be several more public information sessions as well as mandatory hearings if the town moved forward with a municipal bond, Hipp said, and residents are encouraged to continue to submit questions and concerns to templebroadband@templenh.org throughout the process.

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