Sharon CT Broadband Task Force

The Value of Broadband Feasibility Studies

The Town of Sharon, Connecticut, has struggled for decades with internet and cell phone connectivity. The community of about 2,700 residents and 1,750 households has 240 homes located along 27 miles of roadway that have no cable internet and so must rely on DSL, satellite, or cell phones with spotty coverage. For these families, internet connectivity – including distance learning, remote work, and telemedicine – is nearly impossible.

Historically, Sharon’s incumbent cable company has offered to connect homes outside their network for as much as $15,000 to $30,000 per home. The company recently applied for, but did not win, a federal grant that would have funded buildout of the unserved areas of town. Comcast says it is still willing to work with the town to build coaxial, non-fiber connections to unserved areas, perhaps using the town’s American Recovery Plan (ARP) money. While this is an option to bring internet connections to everyone in the community, coaxial connections come with inherent limitations on bandwidth and connection speeds.

Sharon’s Broadband Task Force chose Sertex from five companies that replied to a town-issued feasibility analysis RFP. Of the five respondents, only Sertex offered experience working with small towns to build fiber optic networks, and understanding of regional geographic issues (e.g., ledge formations) and how to work around them.

The Sertex feasibility analysis was completed in January 2022. This financial and engineering analysis outlined the 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 information will be essential for residents deciding whether to support building a municipal network, and for the town in applying for funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

We just want to make sure everyone in town has access to what is a real necessity of life today,”
– Jill Drew

Over the months spent working together on the feasibility analysis, Sharon Connect Task Force members became very comfortable with Sertex representatives and the experience they brought to project planning. “Sertex delivered everything we expected and more,” said Jill Drew, co-chair of Sharon’s broadband task force. “Thanks to their comprehensive analysis, we understand the engineering and equipment needs of the network, how much it will cost to build and maintain, how long it will take to construct, and how the town can finance the project. Sertex has been an excellent partner. They under-promise and over deliver. This has built a relationship of trust with our community.”

To build the network, the town’s goal is to achieve at least a 30% take rate, a figure determined through the feasibility analysis. With this low number of households subscribing, the network will be self-sustaining, paying for its operating costs.

Sharon’s broadband task force is boldly and optimistically moving forward with a community meeting on March 31 to present the Sertex feasibility analysis to residents. Through this presentation, residents will be educated about options to improve town-wide connectivity and given information to consider if the proposal moves to a town vote.

Deciding to build a municipal fiber network is a complex process for leaders in any community. Public support is essential from beginning to end for successful deployments. Local leaders in communities from Connecticut to Maine can use SertexConnectSM planning services to take the critical first steps on the path to their fiber future. Sertex offers two levels of planning services: Broadband Interest surveys and Feasibility Studies. Contact our team to request a consultation.

Listen to an interview with a Sharon Connect Committee member Meghan Flanagan on Robin Hood Radio.

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