Wired West


Over the past several weeks, towns across Western Massachusetts have taken steps to join the modern digital world by voting on legislation enabling participation in a regional, community-owned telecommunications cooperative called WiredWest. The most recent tally is 19 towns that have finalized the legislation necessary to join the cooperative. Several additional towns have passed their first vote, with more towns still to vote in the upcoming weeks.

Town participation in the WiredWest municipal telecommunications cooperative requires passing two consecutive town votes at separate meetings to establish Municipal Light Plant (MLP) legislation in the town. The MLP legislation was created in the Commonwealth over 100 years ago to enable towns to generate their own electricity. In 1996, the ability for towns to offer telecommunications services was added to the MLP statute. WiredWest charter towns researched various governance options and determined this was the best choice for enabling towns to offer telecommunications services, work together cooperatively and issue municipal debt to capitalize the network.

As of May 15th, the towns of Ashfield, Colrain, Conway, Cummington, Egremont, Great Barrington, Heath, Leverett, Leyden, Middlefield, Monterey, New Marlborough, New Salem, Rowe, Shutesbury, Warwick, Washington and Worthington have successfully passed their second and final votes. Chester, also part of WiredWest, was an existing MLP town, taking the total WiredWest MLP towns to 19. And the towns of Charlemont, Florida, Otis, Peru, Wendell and West Stockbridge will be addressing their final votes in the coming weeks.

Steve Nelson, former telecommunications industry electronic journalist and Washington delegate for Wired West, made his own observations about the widespread success of the votes, “Every day, towns in Western Massachusetts are falling further behind the rapid changes occurring in telecommunications. People are unhappy now about having poor Internet service, but things are only going to get worse if we don’t take action. By joining together in the WiredWest cooperative to deploy an advanced fiber network, we can assure a bright future for our region.”

In addition, 11 towns – Alford, Becket, Buckland, Chesterfield, Hawley, Mount Washington, Northfield, Plainfield, Sandisfield, Savoy and Shelburne – have recently passed their towns’ first votes, with Goshen and Hinsdale set to address their first votes this coming week.

MLP Vote Progress can be monitored on the WiredWest website.

About WiredWest:
WiredWest is a community organization with the mission of designing, building and operating a last-mile, open-access, community-owned, fiber-optic network in member towns that offers comprehensive, affordable and reliable internet, phone and television services to all residents, businesses and institutions who want service.

A video compilation of legislators, businesspeople, educators, students and professionals talking about the proposed WiredWest network is available for online viewing here.