Tiny Charlemont, Mass. (population 1,250 or so) has rejected an offer from Comcast to provide broadband in town and will instead pursue a $1.4 million town-owned broadband system, reports the local paper.
Community-owned Internet has long been a goal for a subset of New Hampshire geeks who think that our limited choices for residential service – cable from Comcast or whoever has the franchise in your town, DSL from the local landline phone company, and fading options over satellite – aren’t enough for the 21st century economy. The possibility of providing such service was blocked for years by the state legislature, which wouldn’t allow towns to float bonds to pay for such service because it was seen to be taxpayer-subsidized competition against free market forces. That changed this year with a bill that allowed bonding for projects that will connect premises that don’t have access to broadband as defined by the FCC — 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. If the definition of broadband at the FCC increases, so will the definition.
I’ll be interested to see if any municipal broadband projects show up at Town Meeting season next year.