We have run this idea by enough prospective vendors to know that it works. We have made preliminary choices for a vendor for voice services over the network and we have made a preliminary decision to use CEN for back-haul. We have more than one vendor talking to us about constructing the trunk wiring, and we have more than one vendor talking to us about the customer premises connections, network electronics, and operations and maintenance. From these discussions we are able to fashion a reasonably reliable estimate of costs. These costs are consistent with network component costs that can be derived from costs known to have been incurred by municipal networks elsewhere. There is no question in our minds about the viability of the model or our abilities to orchestrate a real network from a physical and business point of view.
But we are not able to move beyond collecting data and interest at the present time. We commissioned a detailed study of Connecticut law relative to municipal networks and discovered that Connecticut law neither prohibits nor authorizes a community or any private agency contracted by the community to construct a network intended for commercial broadband services. This contrasts starkly with Massachusetts, which has overtly authorized such services furnished over municipally-owned networks, under which many small municipalities in the western part of the state have either built such networks or plan to build such networks. In the absence of positive authority, any community trying such a network using private utility poles will be resisted by Frontier and CATV companies. Frontier owns the poles (with Eversource). Even an underground network could be protested by competing private organizations. Such resistance can only be settled in a court after long and expensive battles. So we are organizing a legislative campaign to cause amendments to existing statutes that will make clear what these statutes imply but do not make explicit, that municipalities have the right to enter the commercial broadband market as the only means by which competition in that market can be realized, the only means by which everyone will have access to broadband services, and the only means by which rural municipalities (at least) can enter the modern world of communications. That campaign will produce suitable legislation by next June 2019.
We are not unmoored. The Community Initiative outlined above will proceed even if the networking requirements are satisfied by CATV for the interval. We will lock down the business plan, write rather complex specifications for the network, and select a full complement of vendors. We will fashion the legal documents necessary to construct a regional entity entitled to represent the communities relative to the network. With some visibility on prospective legislation we may be able to launch network engineering which must precede construction under any circumstances. We can find and arrange for land or existing buildings necessary to house switches and network-end electronics. And not least of our work will be persuading our communities to pay for it. But we will have to delay the actual beginning of network construction until the summer of 2019 at the earliest.