Fairhaven Closing in on Town-Owned Broadband Network
Competition is good, but in many SouthCoast communities, competition has been non-existent when it comes to one very important utility: broadband internet. When broadband internet hit the market, it was lumped in with cable television, and cable companies had contracts with municipalities.
With more and more customers "cutting the cord" and leaving cable behind, an opportunity arose to allow consumers the chance to either buy the two products separately, a la carte, or perhaps ditch the cable for internet only.
“Most people don't know, but Fairhaven has already been wired for fiber optics for all of our municipal and school buildings," said Sean Powers, the chair of Fairhaven's broadband study committee. "We have this running all the way down West Island, to the Town Hall, and to all the schools."
When the fiber is installed, the project normally consists of putting in six to 12 strands, and the town is only using two of those strands, leaving the others available. The idea is to create broadband using the remaining strands. It would be a network that Fairhaven's people would own.
In order to get this project done, the committee would have to become what is called a "municipal light." In essence, that means the town itself would become a utility.
To get approval, town meeting needs to approve the project twice. The broadband project will be on the agenda for Annual Town Meeting on June 12. If approved, at least two months needs to pass before it is approved in a second town meeting.
Will this be a more affordable option, a better option, or both? Powers said the cost would be a third cheaper than what the existing provider, Comcast, is charging in Fairhaven. The technology will also be much more modern and robust.
"You're talking about fiber optic technology vs. old coaxial lines. Fiber delivered to your home will provide a gigabit download and a gigabit upload. Comcast is roughly 150 download and 30 upload," said Powers. "We just want to bring a little competition into town."
If approved, both residents and business in Fairhaven would be eligible to receive the town's new fiber optics. Powers told us that the quality would be more in line with what Verizon FiOS would offer.