Southern Berkshire Technology Committee Bringing Broadband to Life Tue, 04 May 2010 20:15:51 +0000 en hourly 1 We are joining forces with 38 other towns! Tue, 04 May 2010 20:15:34 +0000 rohaver Go to Wired West to find out the most current information on getting fiber to the home.

Click here to find the Participating Towns  and the status of their vote to move forward.

]]> 0
Fall 2009 tour with broadband network engineer Tue, 24 Nov 2009 04:02:20 +0000 Monica Webb Members of the SBTC recently had the opportunity to meet, and tour the Southern Berkshires with one of the country's top broadband architect/engineers, Dr. Andrew Cohill, of Design Nine. Much information was gleaned that will facilitate the first steps of the complex task of planning and building a future-proof, regional last-mile fiber network in our region. See Andrew's blog here about his experience meeting with us:

]]> 0
Feds Mull Rules, Fees to Spur Net Access, WSJ Nov 18/09 Tue, 24 Nov 2009 00:08:03 +0000 Monica Webb From the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators are considering whether the government should take greater control of the Internet and ask consumers to pay higher phone charges in order to provide all Americans with cheaper access to broadband Internet service.

The Federal Communications Commission Wednesday will lay out the case for expanding broadband Internet service, outlining current obstacles to making it widely available. The agency is considering whether to force Internet providers to share their networks with rivals and raise fees charged on consumer phone bills to pay for the broader access.

The Federal Communications Commission is mulling whether to force Internet providers to share their networks with rivals and raise fees charged on consumer phone bills to pay for expanded broadband access. The proposals have drawn criticism from telecommunications and cable companies.

The proposals, which have sparked criticism from telecommunications and cable companies, represent a reversal from the Bush Administration, when regulators cut back on government control of Internet and telephone service.

The new commission, controlled by Democrats, is considering whether more government control is needed to ensure competition and more affordable Internet service.

The FCC staff will float possible solutions in December and make formal recommendations in February, when it is set to release its National Broadband Plan, a blueprint for improving broadband speed and access. Congress asked the FCC for the plan earlier this year.

FCC officials estimate it could cost anywhere from $20 billion to $350 billion to connect all American households to high-speed Internet service, depending on speed offered.

They haven't yet said how much of that investment might come from taxpayers.

The agency is looking at three politically charged proposals to reach its goal of universal broadband access.

One is to as much as double a $7 billion federal phone-subsidy fund, called the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes phone service in rural areas for low income Americans, and expand it to subsidize construction and operation of broadband networks in rural areas. Money for this fund comes from a small charge tacked on to consumer phone bills.

Previous efforts to overhaul the fund have run into significant resistance in Congress, particularly among congressman and senators who represent rural areas where phone cooperatives and small phone companies don't want to lose the federal subsidies they get to provide service.

FCC staff also are studying whether to revive "open access" rules, which would require Internet providers to lease their networks to rivals at government-regulated rates.

[Feds Mull Rules, Fees to Spur Net Access]

Similar rules are in place in Europe and some Asian countries — and some consumer advocates say open access is one reason why Internet service is cheaper and faster in those countries.

FCC officials have made no decisions yet on whether to adopt any of these proposals. The five-member FCC board will be the final say and they haven't been presented with any options yet.

Still, large phone and cable companies are against any effort to allow open access, arguing they will have little incentive to invest billions in networks if they are required to offer below-rate access to rivals.

In recent weeks, they have resisted efforts by the FCC's staff to gather data for pricing models. They are concerned the data-gathering might be used to help justify government rate setting, according to industry executives. FCC officials say they wanted the data for different purposes.

Consumer groups say open-access rules will spark competition and lead to more choice and lower Internet prices.

"It provides a way to bring more competition into the broadband marketplace which could drive down prices for consumers," said Joel Kelsey, policy analyst at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.

The issue bubbled up last month, when Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society released an FCC-commissioned study which concluded that other countries have faster and cheaper Internet access because of open-access rules.

I think that nationwide high speed Internet access is just as important today as rural electrification was in the 30's.— Rick Beesinger

On Monday, AT&T told the FCC that the Harvard study's conclusion, "that open access is the talisman for success in broadband, is nothing short of astonishing."

The Harvard study "seems to assume throughout that we should apply the lessons of the past to the future," wrote Link Hoewing, a Verizon assistant vice president for Internet issues, on the company's policy blog. He argued it didn't make sense for the FCC to look at applying old rules, which were designed for the traditional phone system, to the fast-evolving Internet. Verizon declined to comment.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association said the FCC shouldn't reach a "false and foregone conclusion" that such rules would increase the availability of high-speed Internet service "when a clear preponderance of empirical evidence reaches the polar opposite conclusion."

The FCC's third option for broadening Internet access, floated last month, has already stirred controversy.

The agency suggested that it might reclaim some airwaves from TV station owners and auction them off to wireless companies for more high-speed wireless Internet services.

Broadcasters, including PBS executives and station owners from Texas and other states, have been up in arms, streaming into the FCC over the past two weeks to lobby against the plan.

"The political realities of this are huge," said Gordon Smith, a former Senator from Oregon who recently became head of the National Association of Broadcasters on Tuesday. The FCC's proposal has "a long way to go," he predicted.

Phone and cable companies are already concerned by a separate FCCinitiativewhich would prevent Internet providers from favoring some Internet traffic. These net-neutrality proposals are opposed by Internet service providers, who argue that they need flexibility to manage their networks and potentially offer premium services to customers willing to pay more for faster delivery.

The FCC hasn't formally proposed any open-access rules, which require companies to lease space on their networks to competitors, and may decide not to do so. "We're looking at lots of things in the entire ecosystem. It would be premature to suggest we're moving in a particular direction," said Blair Levin, a former telecom analyst who's overseeing development of the National Broadband Plan for the FCC.

He said that the Universal Service Fund, which is financed by fees charged on consumer phone bills, is flawed because it only covers phone service and not broadband as well.

If the agency heads down the open-access road, it would be returning to policies the FCC adopted in the wake of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which opened the local and long distance phone markets to more competition.

Congress required phone companies to lease part of their networks to competitors, but it took the FCC the better part of a decade to write rules that withstood legal challenges from the telephone companies. The FCC exempted broadband lines from such regulation in 2002.

Write to Amy Schatz at

]]> 0
Next Meeting: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 Mon, 23 Nov 2009 23:17:44 +0000 Monica Webb SBTC meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is Wednesday, January 13th, 2010, at 7pm, at RBC Wealth Management at 50 Castle Street in Great Barrington. Please advise us if you plan to attend, in case we need to postpone the meeting for weather reasons, at

]]> 0
How long until we get high-speed internet access? Mon, 23 Nov 2009 22:41:30 +0000 Monica Webb We cannot say precisely how long it will take given what we know at this point, only that we are as desperate for high-speed internet as you are, and the group is focused on enabling the buildout of infrastructure as soon as possible. This entails working on the pre-build planning, data collecting and negotiations.  We will keep our towns and this web site updated with developments as they occur.

]]> 0
What type and level of service will be offered? Mon, 23 Nov 2009 22:34:43 +0000 Monica Webb

Although the details on the level and types of service and affiliated costs aren't yet confirmed, the SBTC is advocating for a next-generation network based on fiber optic cable to the home priced competitively with existing high speed offerings.

A fiber-optic network involves the communications signal being delivered over optical fiber cable to the home or business. Fiber is the fastest known technology, using light as its transmission medium and one of the world's most stable materials, glass. This technology is the most reliable method to provide vastly higher bandwidth to households and businesses.

Fiber would also bring phone service and video/HDTV into the home over the same line, and would be less costly than what rural Berkshire residents pay today for all of those services. Fiber also enables other ancillary services such as real-time two-way video in-home medical care, real-time two-way video education, home security, and "smart homes," that enable remote management of heat, appliances, and power usage.

]]> 0
Why Fiber Instead of DSL, cable, satellite or wireless? Mon, 23 Nov 2009 18:17:13 +0000 rohaver

Fiber means phone, cable television, and very fast Internet over one line. One strand of fiber has hundreds and hundreds of times more bandwidth capacity than any of the last generation technologies like DSL, cable, satellite and wireless, and thus is the only one considered "future proof." These last generation technologies have limited bandwidth that will not meet the needs of emerging and future needs, like video-streaming, video conferencing, remote medical care, file sharing and cloud computing. Why build a highway based on past traffic volumes?
Unlike the last generation technologies, fiber is also scalable. The fastest existing equipment connecting to it today does not come close to tapping its potential. As better equipment becomes available or more bandwidth is needed, upgrades are relatively simple.                                 
Compared to copper -based DSL and cable systems, fiber is also cost-effective to install and maintain. It’s the cheapest way to bring universal, reliable service to all parts of America. It is, in fact, cheaper than the copper wires we extended to every American home 100 years ago. Also, because fiber is lashed to a high-tensile cable, it is less susceptible to breakage and weather events. As a hard-wired solution, it is not vulnerable to the shortcomings of wireless technologies.
Like the other last generation technologies, wireless has different upload and download speeds and can be slow and unreliable. Of particular challenge to our area is that there needs to be a clear line of sight between the transmitting tower and the receiver at the residence; the very nature of the wireless signal and local topography prevent truly universal wireless coverage. Wireless is extremely useful where mobility is the top priority, but is not nearly as good or secure as optical fiber for the “heavy lifting” telecommunications requirements. The best way to use wireless is as a complement to a foundation of universal fiber which can provide multiple antenna sites and unlimited “backhaul” from these sites to the central “hub.”
 In much of the rest of the world (and urban/suburban areas of the U.S.), fiber networks to the home are already being employed or will be soon. It is important that our rural businesses, students, medical professionals and citizens can live and operate on a level playing field with the rest of the world. Just like the rural electrification initiative of the early 20th century, without the next generation fiber infrastructure, our community will be left behind as the rest of the world moves rapidly to develop and use it.
For more information on fiber-based networks, please download “The Advantages of Fiber.”

Advantages of Fiber  The report

]]> 0
Minutes: Meeting of SBTC 13 May 2009 Tue, 09 Jun 2009 17:29:38 +0000 rohaver Minutes
Meeting of Southern Berkshire Technology Committee
13 May 2009
Great Barrington, Massachusetts

A meeting of the Southern Berkshire Technology Committee was held on 13 May 2009 at
the Town Hall, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, at 4:00 PM, as previously posted.
Present were Charles Flynn (Chair), Tim Newman (Vice Chair), Bob O’Haver, Bob Lichter
(Secretary), Jim Lovejoy, Michael Storch, Brian Killeen, and Paul O’Brien.

The minutes of the meeting of 29 April 2009 were approved unanimously.

Charlie Flynn agreed to continue as Chair of SBTC.

Charlie Flynn reported on his participation in a meeting with legislators, school
committee representatives, and the Commissioner of Education in Boston about
consolidation of school districts as a cost‐saving measure. He noted that the discussion
did not include the use of technology to facilitate this possibility, and pointed out that
technology—and broadband in particular—is required for effective communication
among widely separated schools. He felt that the idea generated some resonance, but
noted also that budget constraints in future years required acting on building out
broadband capabilities sooner rather than later.

Charlie Flynn reported also that the Department of Education is starting an initiative to
improve data collection and analysis for schools. He and Paul O’Brien suggested that the
Lee and Southern Berkshire Regional School Districts collaborate to collect, store, and
access data, and that this step, together with the value of broadband for businesses and
local governments, could be a significant part of a proposal leading to build‐out of a
broadband system in the region. It would also be useful to cooperate with other
education‐related efforts, such as the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education and STEM
Pipeline Network.

Tim Newman reported on his exchange of correspondence with Sharon Gillett, the newly
appointed Director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. SBTC resolved to set as a
priority the organization of a meeting with Gillett and the MBI before a proposal
mechanism is established in order to help shape how the MBI’s efforts proceed. The
Committee agreed that others, such as the Connects and certainly our local legislators,
could be invited to participate, but the meeting would be organized and led by SBTC. At
the same time, the Committee agreed that it needs to push ahead with developing the
technical aspects of a plan, and to continue to put pressure on legislators for support.
The status of the non‐disclosure agreements between the member towns and National
Grid was discussed. Towns have to provide proof that the individual signing the
document was authorized to do so. However, once the agreement with National Grid to
provide pole data is in place, the Committee is in a position to approach Western
Massachusetts Electric Co. With both utilities participating, engaging Verizon may be
unnecessary, because the data will contain not only poles that the utilities own but also
ones to which they are connected.
As reported earlier, Charlie Flynn has been in contact with Rich Vinnette of the Lee
Community Development Corporation, who in turn put him in contact with Rhonda
Serre of Mass Development, about providing assistance in developing a proposal. Charlie
will meet with her about this. The Committee noted that although it must continue to
remain in communication with MBI and the political leadership, the plan will go forward
with or without them.

The Committee also agreed that inviting Lee, Stockbridge, and West Stockbridge to join
SBTC is desirable. Bob Lichter will inform Charlie Flynn of the name of the West
Stockbridge contact with whom the Alford Broadband Committee had worked.
The Committee discussed the other components of the Berkshire Regional Planning
Commission grant to SBTC. Charlie will contact Sarah Lavallee to get the status of its
efforts on reviewing town bylaws and permitting procedures to identify and minimize
barriers, perhaps also developing a template for use by all towns.
Jim Lovejoy discussed Mount Washington’s plans to develop its own broadband effort.
Because of the unique topographical and geographical features and opportunities there,
the Committee agreed that the town’s efforts and possible success could serve as a
model for what the rest of the region could do, and pledged to support the town. SBTC
would serve as a conduit about the results to the Commonwealth.
Bob Lichter reported that Alford had approved $1,500 for the SBTC. Sandisfield has also
approved the $1,500 appropriation, as reported by John Burrows by e‐mail.
After further discussion and review, the Committee agreed on the following action items:

  • Continue contacts with MBI and Gillett to arrange a meeting by 15 June; Tim Newman will continue to take the lead.
  • Continue obtaining more technical information; Jim Lovejoy will take the lead.
  • Continue the pole mapping and permitting examination.
  • Designate Mount Washington’s efforts as a template for SBTC.
  • Initiate working with MassDevelopment for proposal planning.
  • Invite Lee, Stockbridge, and West Stockbridge to join SBTC.
  • Send a thank‐you letter to Tony Blair for his assistance.

The next SBTC meeting will be scheduled after the status of a meeting with Sharon Gillett
is known.
The meeting adjourned at 5:10 PM.
Respectfully submitted,
Robert L. Lichter

]]> 0
June 19, 2009 Broadband Community Meeting with Sharon Gillett, Massachusetts Broadband Institute Director Sun, 07 Jun 2009 22:49:15 +0000 rohaver The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), WesternMA Connect, and
Senator Stan Rosenberg, Senator Ben Downing,
Rep. Steve Kulik, Rep. Smitty Pignatelli and Rep. Denis Guyer
cordially invite you to attend a community meeting about expanding
broadband internet access in western Massachusetts

For your convenience MBI will conduct two sessions in the region.
Both sessions will include a presentation about the latest efforts of the MBI and
an opportunity to participate in discussion on this important issue.  

Please email or call (508) 870-0312 x 1645
to indicate which session you plan to attend.

Berkshire Session
Friday, June 19, 2009, 3:00-4:30 PM
Berkshire South Regional Community Center
Robbins Meeting Room
15 Crissey Road
Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Directions to Berkshire South Regional Community Center, 15 Crissey Road, Great Barrington, MA.
The Community Center is located at the end of Crissey Road, off Route 7 (Stockbridge Road) in Great Barrington.  Crissey Road is located north of The Price Chopper Shopping Center and south of the Jenifer House Commons.

From Stockbridge and Points North:  At the intersection of Route 102 & Route 7, take Route 7 South towards Gt. Barrington. You will pass the intersection to Route 183 on your right. After you pass Jennifer House Commons on your left, make your first left turn onto Crissey Road. Berkshire South is located at the end of Crissey Road.

From the Intersection of Route 7 & Route 23 and Points South:  Take Route 7 north through the town of Gt. Barrington. Crissey Road is the first right hand turn after the light at the Price Chopper Shopping Center. Berkshire South is located at the end of Crissey Road.

From Route 22:  At the intersection of Routes 22 & 23, turn onto Route 23 east. Proceed east on Route 23 passing Catamount Ski area and the town of South Egremont until you reach the intersection of Route 23 and Route 7. Turn left on Route 7 north and follow the directions above.

From the Massachusetts Turnpike:  Take Exit #2 off the Mass Turnpike and follow Route 102 toward Stockbridge. Follow directions above.

Bus:  Let the driver know, and BRTA Bus Route #21 will stop at the front door of Berkshire South. Route #21 runs from Great Barrington to Lee.

]]> 0
Meeting with MBI in New Salem Thu, 28 May 2009 02:48:23 +0000 rohaver  

Governor Deval Patrick 5/26/09 MBI meetnig


Governor Deval Patrick at the May 26th public forum in New Salem on the status of efforts to bring state-of-the-art broadband Internet capability to western Massachusetts.

Photo by Bob Lichter.





]]> 0