Northwest Connect is about bringing our region into the future. A fiber optic network will be an essential utility at some time for every community in the country. We work to make our region the first in the country to make this leap as a region.
A fiber optic network will enable economic develop with younger people moving here to work; it will enable us to enhance our mobile network; the combination will promote safety, health care services, real estate values, education, recreation, the digital home, and a host of other benefits without losing the character of our region we have grown to love.
Roberta Willis, our now-retired state assemblyman, listened to hundreds of complaints about our regional networks for telephone and Internet and came to a simple conclusion: neither our phone company nor our CATV companies will take us into the future. We have networks designed decades ago which are running out of gas. Yes, they could be upgraded, but they are not being upgraded elsewhere, and we will be dead last when they get around to it.
She knew that we are on our own.
So she formed Northwest Connect with other elected officials and some private citizens to orchestrate a network for the future. That network builds lines out of optical fibers which transmit light signals at speeds millions of time faster than copper lines. Such a network would also enable an enhancement to our mobile network, now riddled with dead spots. We began about two years ago. We had a flirtation with Frontier for a few months, but have since been working on a public/private partnership where a private partner would install and maintain the network but with a scheme of shared funding, some from the partner, some from the communities. Such an arrangement will enable universal connection throughout the target region and some income sharing as the network realizes profits.
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Why a Region
We are not blind to the difficulties of getting all 25 towns in our target region on the same page. But we need a regional network. Perhaps most important is the circumstance that no private partner would do just one town or even a few of the smaller towns. A partner will need at least 20,000 homes to create economies of scale and make the numbers run. But there are other reasons. Many of our communities cannot provide an entire package for economic development; but the region can. Some of our most serious future problems will demand regional solutions—health care facilities, regional safety, shared fire and EMS services. And a regional network will enable local call centers and home-grown maintenance. Imagine calling your network provider and the person answering the phone actually lives here.