12 Feb From Roberta Willis: Why I Started Northwest ConneCT
For sixteen years I served as State Representative (64th District) in a largely rural district encompassing nine towns in northwest Connecticut. During that time I was contacted repeatedly by constituents to do something about our inadequate coverage for high speed internet services. There were areas that were underserved, and pockets of towns that were not served at all. I also heard complaints that service was too slow, too expensive, and too unreliable. In spite of numerous requests by me and my constituents to the present service providers, our efforts proved fruitless.
The companies made it abundantly clear to me that they had no plans to improve or invest in the latest technologies now or in the foreseeable future in our rural area. This is simply an unacceptable situation.
I met with Jessica Fowler, a selectman from Sharon. We realized that if we were going to address this problem, we would have to find the solution ourselves. We brought together a group composed of town officials and community leaders and formed “Northwest ConneCT,” a non-profit corporation devoted to delivering broadband to everyone in our region. With Jessica as Chair we got started. We have been supported by The Northwest Hills Council of Governments and several state grants that helped us establish actual coverage and reach out to all towns in our region.
I have long contended that our government should order the build out of broadband internet access to every address, as it did over the last century with the telephone and electricity service. It is thus absolutely necessary for our communities to step in to find a solution so we can thrive.
We are seeking to build community fiber internet networks through public-private partnerships. The online world is now a fundamental tool of communication and commerce. Without a first-class network, we cannot expect to attract young people or the jobs that require technology to our region.