Wendell Broadband FAQs - 2019

 Wendell Broadband FAQs - 2019

When will broadband be available in Wendell?

Our current construction schedule shows the network up and running in Sept 2019.

What will be the monthly cost for internet service?

High Speed broadband (1 Gbps) with unlimited data is estimated to cost $99/month.

What about phone?

VOIP (internet) phone will be available to internet subscribers for an estimated additional charge of $25/month. Signing up for phone service only (without taking internet service) will also be available at a cost TBD (estimated to be $70/month). Included in this price is unlimited long distance calling throughout North America.  You will be able to continue to use your existing telephone number and handset and will no longer require a landline contract. There may be a fee to break your landline contract as discussed below.

Is there a hookup fee?

Depending on the provider we choose, a one-time activation fee of up to $99 will apply for each subscriber.

There may be an additional charge for your residence to install the service drop (connection from the road to your house). We have included an allowance of 1200 per subscriber in the construction budget which will cover the cost of a drop to the majority of houses in town.  If the cost of servicing your location is more than 1200, you will be responsible for the difference. Contact the broadband committee () to get an estimate for your location.

Note that the $1200 allowance is in effect only during the construction phase of the project, and requires that you become a subscriber for at least 1 year.  The cost of getting hooked up at a later date will be significantly higher since we will lose economies of scale available during the construction period.   

What is the total cost of this project?

The current estimate for design engineering and network construction along all main roads is $1,200,000  Our design will be going out to bid shortly, which will provide a more accurate picture of actual construction costs.

Installing a service drop to every house in town is estimated at $514,000.  The actual amount will be less since the town’s contribution is capped at $1200 per house and we will only be running drops to houses that take service.  A more accurate number will become available when we know exactly which premises will be signing up. We expect it to be approximately $300,000.

Make ready (work required to make room on utility poles for our new fiber) was originally estimated at $440,000. Verizon and National Grid are developing an exact figure which we expect to be significantly higher than that estimate.  The Commonwealth has agreed to fund any amount that exceeds our original make ready estimate.

Our current estimate for a completed network (excluding make ready overages covered by the Commonwealth) is $2.0 million. 

How are we going to pay for all this?

The project will be paid for through a combination of State and Federal grants, monthly subscriber fees and property taxes.

The Commonwealth, through the Last Mile broadband program, is providing $730,000 toward design and construction of the network.

The federal government, through the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF), has allocated an additional $880,000 to Wendell, paid out over 10 years starting in 2023.  The application and approval process for this money is extraordinarily complex and depends on some factors over which we have no control.  Even so, it appears likely that this money will come through. 

The $99 monthly subscriber fee is more than enough to cover the cost of running our network (pole rentals, insurance, backhaul connection to the internet, maintenance, depreciation allowance, capital reserve, marketing and billing).  Any amount collected in excess of these costs can be put toward the cost of construction (debt service).

How much will my taxes go up?

In the short term, it is likely that the average house will see a property tax increase of $150/year.  If the federal government CAF grant comes through in 2021 as we expect, this amount can be used toward debt service, reducing the property tax burden for broadband by a corresponding amount.  In the best case long term scenario, there will be no impact on property taxes from the broadband project.

What happened to $49 internet with Wired West?

The $49/month plan that Wired West proposed in 2014 was based on a regional model that ultimately was rejected by the State.  $49 was an optimistic number and it turns out that it would not have been possible to offer broadband at that price in any case.   That being said, Wired West has played an important role in bringing Last Mile broadband to Western Mass, and we probably would not be as far along as we are today without all of the advocacy work that this volunteer organization has done over many years. 

Wired West has since reorganized with a plan to offer services such as ISP (internet service provider), accounting and administration for towns that wish to sign with them.   We will be making a decision about our ISP (internet service provider) and network operator in the next 3 months and expect Wired West to respond to our RFP for those services.  If you made a $49 deposit to Wired West, that money is still being held in an escrow account.  If Wendell chooses WW as our ISP, that money will be applied toward your first month’s service.  If you wish to get your deposit back, send a written, signed request (including the address of service) to:  Wired West, Old Courthouse, 99 Main St. Northampton MA 01060. You should expect your refund with interest within 2-3 weeks.

Who is in charge of Wendell’s broadband network?

Final authority for all expenditures during construction of the network rests with the Selectboard.  The broadband committee acts as an advisory body to them, gathering information and making recommendations on all aspects of the project.  The public is welcome to attend broadband committee meetings.

Once the network is built and running, operational decisions will be made by the MLP (Municipal Light Plant) board.  Until such time as the board is appointed or elected, the Selectboard acts in that capacity.  The board may also hire or appoint a manager to look after day to day operations. 

What about TV?

Broadcast television is another industry being disrupted by the internet.  More and more programming is available in streaming format online and broadband in your home will allow you to access online streaming services which would allow you to break contract with other tv providers such as Comcast, Charter, and Direct TV. Some online streaming services are free (YouTube and certain network content) but some require an additional subscription beyond basic monthly internet service.  Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV and Amazon Prime are examples of subscription content services and monthly fees vary. It is a personal and financial decision for residents to determine which online services would best suit them.

What if I am already in a contract with an internet provider?

Early termination fees may apply for breaking a contract with your current internet provider.  Generally, the fee decreases every month over the term of your contract. These potential fees may be found on the company’s website or by contacting the committee: .

What if I have additional questions?

Feel free to attend a Selectboard/MLP/Broadband Committee meeting at any time, reference our minutes and informational documents on Wendell’s town website (http://www.wendellmass.us) or email the committee: .