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Councilor Lederman Calls for Feasibility Study on Municipal Fiber Internet Option

At-Large Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman is calling for the City of Springfield to conduct a study to determine the feasibility, cost, and steps needed to create a municipal fiber internet network to serve Springfield residents and businesses.

Springfield is set to receive more than $100 million in COVID-19 relief funds through the American Rescue Plan. The American Rescue Plan specifically notes that the expansion of broadband infrastructure is an appropriate use of funds under the act.

Councilor Lederman made the request in a letter addressed to Mayor Domenic Sarno and Chief Administrative, Financial Officer T.J. Plante, and Economic Development Director Timothy Sheehan sent on Thursday.

“The internet has become an essential utility for families and businesses, and people are tired of being nickel and dimed when it comes to internet access,” said Councilor Lederman, “A municipal fiber network would put the public in the driver seat when it comes to ensuring affordable and capable internet access.”

“The time is now to make sure that Springfield is not left behind as new technology becomes available,” said Councilor Lederman, “As we look to a future where high-speed rail is a reality and more residents are telecommuting we must ensure that Springfield is investing in this critical public infrastructure at the same rate as other communities to meet demand to retain and attract residents and businesses.”

Lederman’s letter states that such a study should assess the current state of Internet access and capability in all Springfield neighborhoods, gauge public interest and the return on investment for a municipal fiber option, assess the cost and possible revenue sources to finance the development of the infrastructure, and explore creative paths forward including possible public/private partnerships and regional collaborations.

Councilor Lederman began looking into the possibility of municipal fiber following the announcement that Comcast/Xfinity, the primary Internet service provider for the Springfield area, would implement data-caps and overage charges on customers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Councilor Lederman led a coalition of City Councilors from Springfield, West Springfield, Agwam, and Northampton in opposing that action, which has now been delayed until 2022.

In April, Councilor Lederman joined together with colleagues from those same communities to hold a Virtual Forum with experts on municipal fiber networks to discuss the potential benefits to communities that pursue development. Currently all of those partner communities are conducting feasibility studies, and communities like Chicopee, Westfield and South Hadley have already implemented municipal fiber Internet options.

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