Leaving Western Massachusetts Out in the Cold

It snows a lot in Western Massachusetts, and although the residents can deal with foul weather, their satellite dishes--the only option for internet access faster than dial-up--cannot. According to Florida Town Administrator Susan Brown,

If it snows, I have to have my road foreman de-ice it. The other day, he was throwing salt up at the dish so I could use the Internet to check the upcoming weather forecast.

Such is life in America's small towns, where a lack of capital prevents many residents from accessing high speed internet service. A recent study by Berkshire Connect, a company founded to bring high speed internet access to Western Massachusetts, found that a third of communities in the region have no high speed service, and another third have limited service.

According to Donald Dubendorf, president of Berkshire Connect,

It’s going to be a capital issue first, last and always. We need to use public money to solve the capital problem, but it’s always an issue of involving public and private money. This is not an easy nut to crack.

The problem is the relatively high cost of building the infrastructure necessary to bring this service to sparsely populated regions, compared with the large revenues generated by providing high speed access in urban areas. As Berkshire Connect business manager Sharron Ferry concluded,

From the financial analysis, it is more likely the major companies aren’t and most likely never will provide broadband service. And it is apparent from the study that we will need to have a combination of many of the towns to create a subregional approach.

Many residents of Western Massachusetts understand the importance of solving this problem. Doug Newman, vice president of the New Marlborough planning board, said people in his town are clamoring for high speed access, and some are even considering moving to areas that do have this service.

State Rep. Daniel Bosley added that the lack of high speed internet access keeps many businesses from coming to the region.

But because the solution involves the formidable logistics of uniting the area's disparate communities and combining both public and private funding, the people of Western Massachusetts won't be connecting to the internet at high speeds without a serious effort on the part of their leaders.

Until then, they'll just have to keep dialing up or brushing the snow off their satellite dishes, in a slow and unrelenting lesson in patience. 

Lack of Capital Blocks Broadband Expansion

Berkshire Connect, Inc.