The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, MA) - High-Speed Internet Links Begin in Richmond 02/09/2012
By Trevor Jones
RICHMOND -- High-speed Internet access for rural parts of the Berkshires took another step toward reality on Wednesday.
Roughly five miles of fiber-optic cable were strung along existing cables on State Road as part of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute's construction of the MassBroadband 123 network.
The project is bringing high-speed Internet to about 120 communities with little or no access in the western and north central portions of Massachusetts by June 2013. However, portions of the network could come online in Berkshire County by the end of this year.
Wednesday in Richmond, Massachusetts Broadband Institute Director Judith Dumont said she was "like a kid in a candy store" getting to see crews string the fiber optic lines after years of work to get to this point.
The system will link the Internet to 1,400 anchor points, such as schools and libraries, and from there, providers could spread the connection to households and businesses.
The project in Richmond is a partnership between MBI and Richmond Telephone Co., which owns the existing utility lines. The work is being paid for by MBI, and money is being saved by utilizing existing lines.
"It's just really exciting for everyone in the region who has been waiting so long to get this project going," said Dumont.
The full $71.6 million MBI project throughout Western Massachusetts is funded through federal stimulus dollars and state grants.
Richmond Telephone has existing fiber optic for limited use in the town, but funding is allowed to be allocated to this portion of the network because it's considered a key conduit between Pittsfield and South County, which has a number of underserved towns. The MBI's network is also providing Richmond Telephone the opportunity to expand its service locally.
CornerStone, Richmond Telephone's Troy, N.Y.-based parent company, provides business phone and data services to businesses in other parts of Berkshire County.
CEO Dan Yamin said these upgrades will enhance the services CornerStone can provide to businesses in the area and could open the door for Richmond Telephone to offer cable, Internet and television bundles to challenge Time Warner Cable.
Once the network is completed, it will be owned by the state and revenues generated will be shared with network provider AXIA NGNetworks USA. Though it's too soon to say how much revenue the system will generate, Dumont said, the funds will be used to continue to expand the network and attract so-called abandoners -- residents and businesses who could utilize high-speed Internet access but choose to use slower services or none at all.
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