The Initiative

An investment in the future of our region
Town Population Homes Road Miles
Barkhamsted 3,731 1,500 75
Bridgewater 1,679 886 45
Burlington 9,499 3,535 100
Canaan (Falls Village) 1,149 749 47
Colebrook 1,633 801 57
Cornwall 1,362 1,020 81
Goshen 2,943 1,633 85
Hartland 2,196 832 47
Harwinton 5,571 2,259 87
Kent 2,917 1,508 90
Litchfield 8,306 4,151 148
Morris 2,314 1,292 46
New Fairfield 14,117 5,863 105
New Hartford 6,853 2,906 100
New Milford 27,679 11,592 260
Norfolk 1,550 940 71
North Canaan 3,239 1,558 47
Roxbury 2,271 1,209 73
Salisbury 3,685 2,439 95
Sharon 2,736 1,943 112
Sherman 3,649 1,792 72
Torrington 35,493 17,195 204
Warren 1,464 866 50
Washington 3,517 2,200 114
Winchester/Winsted 11,996 5,824 106
TOTALS 161,549 76,493 2,317

Notes: 

  • Population figures are estimates made in 2015; they do not include second homeowners, which we estimate approx. 20,000 for the region.
  • Homes include an estimate for second-homes.
  • Road miles include roads controlled by municipalities and roads controlled by the state.

What Is It

We are proposing a regional fiber optic network covering 25 or more communities in northwest Connecticut.  The network would be “universal,” connecting every home and business in the region.  The network would connect users to telephone, television, Internet, and auxiliary services, with Internet speeds up to (and later above) 1 gbps, in both directions.  Once the fiber lines are mounted on telephone poles, we would be able to install small cell antennas on the same poles and connect them into mobile networks using the fiber optic lines, thus enhancing our mobile network and preparing it for eventual 5G services.

Why

Our regional telephone network cannot deliver broadband services as currently defined (25 mbps downstream minimum).   Our CATV network can deliver adequate speeds for most applications today, but they only connect through subscriptions around 60% of our homes and they do not even reach a significant number of our homes.  Both our telephone and CATV companies could bring fiber optics to our homes, but they have not started elsewhere and when they start, if they start, we will be last.

Our fiber optic network will connect everyone.  It will provide all the speed anyone will ever need to everyone.  It is future proof, and will bring the future to our region sooner rather than later.

A fiber optic network brings economic benefits, community benefits, and individual benefits.  It will serve as the backbone of new businesses devoted to information technology or requiring information technology, which new businesses will attract young people to our region.  In particular it will enable a focused program around new wellness initiatives that will save our hospitals and promote better living for all.  It will enhance community safety through ubiquitous communications.  It will fill all the gaps in education caused by slender broadband services.  It will reduce consumer costs for telephone and television, and it will foster the digital home, a home without internal wiring (television sets can be anywhere and moved anywhere) and one prepared for the future in video security, home management, and the Internet of Things.

How

Community fiber optic networks have been installed in more than 100 municipalities in the last few years.  The technology is mature, the problems and costs known, the real challenge more in maintenance and operations after the network is constructed than the construction itself, but even that is well within the capacities of any private partner with whom we would work.  We are in the process now of soliciting interest from prospective partners for construction, maintenance, and services.

The central problem is not technical, it is financial.  We have a thin housing footprint.  No private partner will fund the network entirely.  We have to contribute some portion of the network’s initial costs.  We are proposing community contributions in excess of what would be required to just close the gap so that the partnership delivers a revenue stream to the communities as a sharing of profits.

Our communities are generally reluctant to increase taxes or absorb other forms of debt that appear to increase individual costs.  We respect this reluctance; most of our board shares this reluctance.  But this is not paying for the past, how we might think of costs for schools, roads, snow plowing, administration, pensions, and facilities.  This is an investment in the future.

We are going to spend much of Spring and Summer of 2018 explaining what we are doing to every elected official and every significant stakeholder in the region.  We are putting out requests for proposals (RFPs) and we will have all partner, financial, and scheduling details finalized in the Fall of 2018.  The late Fall/early Winter of 2018 will tell the tale—communities will be asked to vote for funds.  If we are successful, engineering will begin in the fall, first construction in early 2019, the network completed in 2021.

What is fiber optic?

Fiber optic lines are strands of optically pure glass as thin as a human hair that carry digital information over long distances. They are also used in medical imaging and mechanical engineering inspection. They’re designed for long distance, very high performance data networking and telecommunications.

Compared to wired cables, fiber optic cables provide higher bandwidth and can transmit data millions and millions times faster over longer distances .

Fiber optic cables support much of the world’s internet, cable television and telephone systems.

Northwest Connect Solution

The Network

Working with a private partner who will build and maintain the network, we can create a regional fiber optic network for less than $15 per month/per home, assuming most if not all of our 25 target towns participate.  Users who subscribe to the network will usually save more than $15/month on telephone and television services, which will be offered over the new network.  We will also be able to use that fiber optic network to significantly enhance our mobile network, improving safety, real estate values and overall communications in our region.

Economic Development

By investing in this regional initiative, we are investing in our region’s economic growth, the sort of growth that will invigorate the young population, add jobs for existing residents, improve the tax base, secure a critical mass health care system, improve public safety systems, encourage business growth, add children to our school system…all while preserving what we all love about rural living.

Northwest Connecticut Economic Development

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