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 cable TV companies will take us into the future. We have networks that were designed decades ago which HAVE run 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 we were 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 our work two years ago. At that time, there were a lot of skeptics and most of our elected officials thought we didn’t need it. We went through 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 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.
We have turned our skeptics into believers. We now have first selectmen on our board, as well as local leadership. In fact, the whole elected community has gotten behind us, and communities throughout our region are prioritizing this effort in their town plans. With the grant from the state powering our efforts – the only telecom grant the state has awarded – what was once a dream is well on its way to becoming reality.