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Williamstown Seeks Data on Interest in Municipal Broadband
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:36AM / Friday, January 10, 2020
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town is using an old-school method to determine whether residents want a 21st-century improvement to the town's infrastructure.
 
Included in the annual street census this month, Williamstown residents received a brief survey to assess their interest in the town creating a municipally owned fiber optic network.
 
Fiber optics are, the survey letter points out, "the fastest way to transmit data."
 
Many homes in town already receive Internet service through a private carrier, but, anecdotally, town officials are aware of a desire among residents for faster upload and download service.
 
"The results of an ongoing feasibility study of building a town fiber optic network indicate that a town-owned system might be financially feasible, but one of the key factors is the extent to which town residents would subscribe to the town network, generally referred to as the ‘take rate.' " the survey reads. "If the take rates for subscription to the system are high, then the monthly cost to subscribers can be the same or lower for a much faster service and the system can be self-supporting. If the take rates are low, then the monthly cost to subscribers can be the same or higher and the system may operate at a loss.
 
"One of the goals of this survey is to gauge community support for building and subscribing to a town-owned system."
 
Residents are asked whether they hypothetically would be willing to switch to a town-owned network and at what price point. Choices included: not willing to switch, willing to switch if the price is the same as what homeowners pay now, willing to switch for up to a 10 percent price hike, willing to switch for up to a 25 percent price hike or willing to switch at any price (within reason).
 
The survey also asked residents how much per month they currently spend for Internet access, allowing them to pick one of five price ranges from $40 or less to $70 or more.
 
The broadband survey could be completed on the paper version sent with the town census or on the town's website at williamstownma.gov/broadband.
 
The Annual Street Listing census, which is to be completed on the paper form, is mandatory for all residents, Town Clerk Mary Kennedy noted in a news release this month.
 
"The census is requirement of the Massachusetts General Law and it is important that all residents return them to the Town Clerk’s office promptly," the release reads. "Failure to respond to the census will result in removal from the active voting list and may result in removal from the voter registration rolls."
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