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Barkhamsted, Conn., Explores Feasibility of Town-Owned Network

Officials in the town are weighing the benefits of a fiber-optic network that would supply all residents and businesses with access to high-speed Internet. Residents will be surveyed to gauge their current service levels.

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(TNS) — Because reliable Internet access is essential to daily life in the 21st century, town officials are exploring the feasibility of building a town-owned fiber-optic network to provide high-speed Internet access to all residents and businesses, said First Selectman Don Stein.

As part of that effort, officials want to know what residents think of their current service offerings and whether they'd be interested in subscribing to high-speed fiber Internet, which will be assessed through a broadband survey for residents.

Internet service providers, including those serving the town, advertise standard upload and download speeds.

"To validate the actual speeds that users experience, the Barkhamsted broadband survey includes a speed test to measure both download and upload performance," officials said in a statement. "The survey also includes a 14 question poll for participants to share their opinions about the importance of reliable high speed Internet connectivity."

The goal of the Barkhamsted broadband initiative is to educate residents and businesses about the opportunity for the town to build an open access network that would provide a choice for reliable, high-speed fiber Internet and optional VOIP telephone service, Stein said.

Barkhamsted residents and business owners can access the survey on the town website at www.barkhamsted.us/broadband-survey.

It can be completed from any device with an Internet connection; however, speed tests conducted from home computers will provide the most accurate data results. Residents who do not have home Internet service or need assistance can complete the survey at the Beardsley & Memorial Library.

Along with the broadband survey, Stein and other town officials are working with experts from Connecticut-based Sertex Broadband Solutions to conduct a FTTX Feasibility Analysis. A financial and engineering review, it will provide high-level design requirements and costs for network construction, including aerial and underground fiber pathways, pole licensing, engineering, fiber drops, equipment and installation, and annual operating and maintenance expenses. The resulting financial information will be essential for the town in applying for grant funding.

"The town is excited to explore the possibility of bring quality high speed Internet and choice to our community," Stein said. "We hope to gather as many survey responses as possible to get the relevant data needed to move forward with community support.

"The vision of a locally-owned fiber optic network is to provide universal high-speed and reliable Internet access with a choice of providers to offer more bandwidth at pricing levels controlled by the town," Stein said.

In 2020, Stein held a public online forum, proposing to establish the independent service network. Members of a volunteer group, Northwest Connect, did their own survey and found people were dissatisfied with their provider. Some said they were using two providers for better reliability.

At the time, Stein said, "Within this region, if we were successful in bringing in fiber optics, we'd set up a local utility, and we'd provide it. No town in the state has done this."

Sharon residents took the idea of owning a network service a step farther and, in October 2020, hired Sertex Broadband Solutions to conduct a broadband infrastructure feasibility study.

©2022 The Register Citizen, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.