As population decreases, so does broadband accessibility. Even in highly connected states like Connecticut, people are trying to work and learn despite dial-up, DSL, and underperforming cable connections.
In 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 15-20% of Connecticut residents have no internet access. It’s a fact that thousands of people in more than 100 towns have no wired connection capable of the FCC’s minimum 25 Mbps suggested speed.
In the small hill towns of northwestern Connecticut, a grassroots movement to build gigabit-speed fiber broadband is underway. Northwest ConneCT is a nonprofit organization representing 25 rural towns interested in establishing municipally-owned individual networks or a cooperative-owned, next-generation regional fiber network.
Of the 76,000 homes represented by Northwest ConneCT, roughly two-thirds connect through cable television providers while one-third rely upon DSL over telephone lines, satellite connections, or spotty mobile coverage. As many as 250 customers may share a single cable line that was never designed to handle pandemic level activity.
The organization’s founders have turned to Sertex for help fulfilling their vision of a fiber network that will make the area a center of innovation, retain young people and families, and inspire community and economic growth.
According to Kim Maxwell, president of the Northwest Connect board and founder of The Broadband Forum, “We just can’t say enough positive things about Mike Solitro and Sertex. He has openly shared the experience and knowledge he gained from working with small towns in Western Massachusetts like Shutesbury, towns that are very similar to our Northwest ConneCT communities. He understands the challenges, the costs, the timing and the politics. He’s even driven us around to tour the Western Massachusetts networks he’s built. We trust Mike’s experience and look forward to working together in coming years to get this network running.
With 850 homes over 46 square miles, Norfolk is the fastest-moving of the Northwest ConneCT towns and should become the model for other towns in the region to replicate. The fiber network project is expected to be voted on by residents in May 2021.