Bringing reliable, high speed internet to every address in Greenfield. Downtown or in the woods - every address.
Of course everyone wants to have the broadband project completed yesterday. If we could do that we would! Meanwhile, here is what has been happening and some idea of the next steps:
May 2nd: Voters gave the town permission to finance the broadband project and negotiate contracts.
May 18th: The NH Bond Bank approved our loan application.
Senate Bill 85 - Matching Funds?
As mentioned below, the NH legislature has been working to create a Broadband Matching Grant Initiative. This would, potentially, enable Greenfield to reduce the amount of money that the Town needs to raise for the project.
In order to position the town to be able to benefit from this possibility we need to borrow no more than 50% of the approved funds in the summer round of bond funding. Coincidentally the terms of the CCI contract specify a 50% payment to start the project - so borrowing half the money has no impact on the project start date!
This enables the town to be eligible to apply for matching funds once the state figures out what the process for that will be. Realistically we need that process to be defined fairly quickly as there are additional payments due to CCI in Q1 of 2022.
By taking this path we have roughly a 6 month window to try to qualify. If the state doesn't pass the legislation, or the rules are not friendly to us, or if there is no money, we just continue with the second half of the bond process in January. From the project's point of view it is "business as usual". If we are able to get matching funds then we simply reduce or eliminate the second "tranche" of borrowing.
As mentioned above, the town's application was approved on May 18th. The next step is for the NH Bond Bank to auction a "pool" of bonds from all around NH. This will occur on July 14th. Once the auction is complete we will know what the interest rate is for the first 50% of our funds and we can plug a repayment schedule into the CCI contract.
The proceeds from the bond auction will be sent to the town on August 11th. Once we have that money we can then pay CCI to get started on construction.
The CCI Contract
While all of this is going on we have been working on the CCI contract. There are quite a few things, like the payment schedule, that are dependent on external events and that cannot be finalized quite yet. We expect to have a "red-lined" draft to CCI next week (the week of June 21st) and hope to have all of the major points agreed on early July. Some finalized numbers will be added as they become available.
Once we have funds from the bond bank and a finalized contract in place we can get the project kicked off! That should happen in mid-August. There is probably a bunch of paperwork and a lot of planning meetings before we see trucks out on the roads hanging fiber but work should be starting in late summer! If all goes well "the network" will be ready by January and CCI will then start scheduling installation of "drops" for customers (running fiber from the road to the house). The actual "go live" is probably several months after that.
We will, of course, continue to communicate what is going on and you can always reach out to us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on our Greenfield Broadband Facebook Group.
Next Steps (May 2nd, 2021)
Now that the bond has been approved we are moving on to the next steps in implementing the project. We will, of course, continue to communicate what is going on and you can always reach out to us by email at greenfieldbroadband.@gmail.com or on our Greenfield Broadband Facebook Group.
So what is next?
NH Senate Bill 85, "Establishing A Broadband Matching Grant Initiative" , is working its way through the NH legislature. There is a House Finance Committee public hearing on Monday May 10th at 10:50am to discuss the bill.
Members of the public may attend using the following links:
1. To join the webinar: https://www.zoom.us/j/92166004660
2. Or Telephone: 1-929-205-6099
3. Webinar ID: 921 6600 4660
email to LBA@fiscal.nh.us will be monitored throughout the meeting by someone who can assist with and alert the committee to any technical issues.
It is not clear if it will be discussed in the House Hearing, but Senators Bradley and Kahn have proposed an amendment that will help to ensure that towns, like Greenfield, that have projects approved for this year, can take advantage of this money. (The original bill gives the impression that money would only be available to towns that go through the process for next year. Thus delaying implementation of any project using this money until at least 2023.)
You can contact Greenfield's NH State Senator and House Representatives and let them know that it is important that these funds be made available to towns that have approved projects this year rather than only supporting future projects:
The next thing on the agenda is to start digging deeper into contract negotiations with CCI. We need to clarify some of the terms of the contract and ensure that the interests of the town and its citizens are covered. This will probably proceed over the next few months. The contract does not need to be signed right away and it may be beneficial to wait as long as possible in order to qualify for the matching funds mentioned above.
The NH Bond Bank usually holds an auction in June or July for the bonds approved by NH towns. That auction may be later than usual this year in order to accommodate uncertainty about matching funds. Once that auction takes place and funds are made available we will need to finalize the contract with CCI to get construction moving forward.
So when do we start to see CCI trucks wiring up the town? It depends. The variability of the financing timeline may impact the start of construction. Some parts of project planning, ordering cables and equipment can get started right away. We won't see anyone up on the poles installing our network before the contract is signed. That will probably be late summer or early fall. It may be later. This year 20+ towns have approved projects like ours and we are one of the last towns to vote on it. If all goes well, construction should be underway sometime in the second half of 2021 and CCI should be scheduling appointments for hook-ups in the spring. We will, of course, keep everyone up to date as we get more information!
The Bond has passed!
Town Meeting is over and the broadband bond was approved by voters 152-1. Thank-you Greenfield!
The bond will be voted on at Town Meeting on May 1st starting at 9am outside at Oak Park.
You must be present to cast your vote, there are no absentee ballots for Town Meeting.
The bond is article #2 and voting will be open for one hour. A 3/5 majority is needed to pass.
The last day for residents to register to vote at Town Meeting is Saturday, April 24th.
Better Internet in Greenfield
Consolidated has updated, simplified, and reduced their proposed pricing for the fiber Network:
This new pricing removes several items that were previously charged separately. The net result is that the "entry level" 50Mbps fiber plan is the same price as the current entry level DSL pricing:
Update: Now that the FCC web site has settled down, CCI appears to be the sole winner in Greenfield. All of the Greenfield coverage is also "Gigabit, low latency" (green coloring). SpaceX was the winner of the red areas on the map and those all appear to be just outside Greenfield's border. The next step in the RDOF process is for the winners to submit a "Long Form Application" and they have until January 29th to do so.
While we do not yet know what specific impact this will have on our project, it is good news as winners are a) interested and b) incentivized to actually bring broadband to these areas. Unlike most previous FCC broadband funding the winners do not get paid unless they actually provide service to the indicated areas.
Update 2: We have confirmed that CCI won $439,488 and that this amount will be deducted from the bond amount. That means that the bond amount is now expected be $987,012 and that the recovery fee should fall from $14/month to $10/month.
We have selected a Proposal
The Select Board asked for a recommendation and the committee recommended Proposal #1. Our feeling is that this proposal provides the fastest timeline to implementation and has the lowest barriers to adoption. The Select Board agreed and we are moving ahead negotiating a contract.
We have received responses to the RFP and we have three substantial proposals to consider. At first reading all of these proposals are technically suitable and meet our goal of bringing broadband to every address in Greenfield!
The following table compares the highlights of the proposals:
The first two of the proposed solutions also meet our criteria of zero tax impact! The third proposal is unclear about that aspect and we have requested clarification. We are very interested in hearing from people about what they like and do not like about these proposals. Please join our next info call to share your feedback and ask questions or send an email to:
Update: We have confirmed that CCI won $439,488 in RDOF funding and that this amount will be deducted from the bond amount. That means that the bond amount is now expected be under $990,000 and that the user fee should fall from $14/month to $10/month.
Update #2: CCI has revised their proposed pricing, substantially reducing the monthly rates, eliminating some of the fees and increasing bandwidth for the middle tier from 100Mbps to 250Mbps.
FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund
On October 8th the FCC released a list of eligible census tracts for RDOF funds and Greenfield made the grade! (That's not really a good thing - it means that our internet service is very, very bad). At the end of October an auction will be held and qualified service providers can bid to offer service to eligible areas. We do not know if any service providers are planning to bid but we do know that CCI is on the list of qualified service providers along with SpaceX/Starlink. So it is at least possible that funds will be made available to one or both of those companies to help relieve our pain.
Bringing Broadband to Greenfield
What Are We Doing?
Our goal is to upgrade the town's archaic service to modern broadband speeds to benefit ALL of the underserved residents of Greenfield. The idea is for every address in Greenfield to be be served. Downtown, or in the woods, everyone will have broadband available!
Many technologies are possible but the most common solution is a Fiber Optic network. Fiber is typically capable of providing speeds of up to 1Gbps upload & download (symmetric). Other options will be considered if they are offered but we are aiming for something at least as good as fiber.
How Will We Do It?
Senate Bill 170 (effective July, 2018) allows NH communities that are unserved by internet providers to issue bonds for building broadband infrastructure that meets or exceeds the FCC definition (currently defined as connectivity speeds of at least 25Mbps download/3Mbps upload).
By this definition more than 80% of Greenfield is currently unserved! And many residents who meet this modest requirement find that their service is inadequate and unreliable.
Chesterfield became the first NH town to take advantage of SB 170 in 2019. At Town Meeting in 2020 five more towns approved projects and many other NH communities are well underway for 2021.
To move forward with this Greenfield would pursue a public-private partnership where the provider guarantees payments for the bond. Rather than paying the bond through local taxes, the bond would be paid for by a monthly user fee (typically around $10) added to the provider’s service charges. In this way there is zero impact on taxes. Only the subscribers pay and they only pay a small additional fee until the bond is paid off.
What Is The Process?
The first step is a Request For Information from current providers. The Select Board has sent that request to CCI (essentially the only provider in town) and already received their response.
In addition we are surveying the town to independently validate the reported service speeds. Have you taken the online survey? If yes... THANK YOU! If no, please take the survey here:
The survey is over, Results
Next, a Request For Proposals will be issued to potentially interested providers. We hope to send that out in early August, start evaluating replies in September and recommend a selection by October.
Upon selection of a provider, a series of meetings will be held and the bond would be presented for town vote. If the bond is approved then construction would begin next summer and will, hopefully, be complete by year-end 2021!
How Can I Learn More?
The Greenfield Broadband volunteers have been hosting weekly call-ins to answer questions and keep townsfolk up to date. We regularly post on the Greenfield Meeting Place Facebook page, but if you are not on Facebook, please send us an email and we will let you know the next day and time of the call-in. Or check back on this page!
The first step is to get a clear picture of the current state of affairs. Our Broadband Survey will help us to understand people's actual experience - not just the service that is "available" but what people actually experience. The data collected in the survey will identify what proportion of town is formally "unserved" (according to the FCC definition of broadband) in order to quantify the scope of the problem.
We are holding weekly information sessions via Zoom where residents can ask questions and express their concerns. If you're wondering what our options are and what the process is to improve town-wide internet service this call is for you!
Tuesdays at 7:30pm
Greenfield Broadband Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/209505687217465