Published: 16.01.2023 11:52:25
Modified: 16.1.2023 11:49:10
Almost all homes in Northfield and Bernardston that weren’t previously covered by Comcast are getting coverage under a new, 10-year licensing agreement that must be signed by all parties.
“When they came through the western Massa area to disrupt the towns with high-speed internet, they didn’t extend all the way to our town,” explained Brian Keir, chairman of the Bernardston Selectboard.
Now, after three years of negotiations, about 50 of Bernardston’s 57 residents who didn’t have access to broadband through Comcast will be able to connect. Keir explained that this is an estimate because more homes continue to be built in rural areas of cities that may not be counted.
Several homes in Northfield were also added to the coverage area. Northfield is now 98-99% covered, according to Alex Meisner, a member of the Northfield Selectboard.
“Today, everyone deserves the right to information, and high-speed Internet gives them that right,” Meisner said.
Keir explained that the infrastructure needed to cover these homes would cost approximately $750,000 to $1 million. The cost will be split between the two cities, Comcast and the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. Bernardston will pay $60,000 of the cost and Northfield will pay $13,500.
The Massachusetts Broadband Institute was founded under the leadership of Governor Charlie Baker. The Technology Partnership is working to bring high-speed broadband Internet access to every home in Massachusetts.
“It’s a small investment knowing it’s going to be $1 million. We felt it was important to serve these homes with high-speed Internet,” Keir continued.
Keir said it became clear how important broadband is during the pandemic. “Students who didn’t have Internet access were struggling,” he said.
He said schools are providing hotspots for students at home without connectivity, but this shows a glaring problem with their infrastructure.
The two cities hired an attorney specializing in licensing agreements to negotiate the 10-year license. According to Keir, they focused on expanding coverage in the negotiations.
New additions to Bernardston-Northfield Community Television (BNCTV) were also agreed to in the licence. There will now be a high definition channel for the station and an increase in public, educational and government access channel (PEG) fees. The increased PEG fee that appears on people’s cable bills will go to public access television stations, in this case BNCTV.
“We’re glad it’s a done deal,” Keir said. “It will be on the books for another 10 years.”
Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or [email protected]