HUDSON – Broadband committee member Robbie Leppzer said that while it took a while, the project has received state approval, which is a major milestone. He credited the work of State Senator Stanley Rosenberg as a big part of this development.
Forty million dollars has been allocated by the state toward the total cost of the project which is estimated to be between $100-119 million. The balance of the funds will come from individual towns “having some financial skin in the game,” Leppzer said. The overall plan is for towns participating in the project to take out general obligation bonds on which they will only pay interest for the first three to five years, contingent with subscribers signing up for the program. Eventually, Wired West will take on the payments and possibly provide refunds to the towns. This will be contingent on the number of subscribers that participate from each town, with a 40 percent subscriber rate being the minimum, a 50 percent rate being the approximate break-even point, and a 65 percent rate creating a surplus that would lead to refunds and discounts. The finance committee estimated that the town’s contribution would be between $1 to $1.4 million at an interest rate of four percent.
Some positive signs are that the town of Leverett, which is part of Wired West but has moved forward with its program ahead of other towns, has already achieved the 65 percent “take rate” and approximately 50 percent of eligible Wendell residents have signed pledge cards, which speaks to the intent of town residents to take advantage of the program. Once the project is completed, the services offered will be high-speed internet, telephone, and television. In response to the update, the board passed a non-binding resolution that confirms the town’s intention to move forward with the project. In order for the project to receive final approval from the town, a two-thirds vote at either the Annual Town Meeting or a Special Town Meeting will be required. Officials are hopeful and confident that this is an achievable goal. If approved, the soonest that the town would see service provided would be the spring of 2017.