WESTMORELAND — The town’s broadband advisory committee will detail its plan to bring high-speed Internet access to every resident and business in Westmoreland at a meeting Monday night.
For more than a year, the committee has been brainstorming a solution to the dismal broadband situation, member JJ Prior said.
Broadband is an umbrella term that typically refers to Internet service that’s faster than dial-up, and it’s often described via download and upload speeds.
The advisory committee “was born out of discontent that people had been expressing on the Westmoreland community Facebook group,” Prior said, adding that every Internet outage sparked another fierce discussion online about the need.
So Prior joined with John Snowdon, now the committee chairman, and Chris Ballou to approach town officials about establishing a committee to study the problem and find a fix for it. The three men didn’t know each other before forming this group, Prior noted.
The committee hopes to model its program after Chesterfield, which was the first New Hampshire community to take advantage of Senate Bill 170, sponsored by state legislators and Democrats from Keene, Sen. Jay Kahn and Rep. John Bordenet. Signed into law in May 2018, the bill allows municipalities to issue bonds for building broadband infrastructure in areas that aren’t served by a commercial provider.
“It’s kind of neat that we’re seeing local action happening from the legislation that our two local legislators created,” Prior said.
After getting approval at town meeting in March, Chesterfield teamed with Consolidated Communications to install a fiber-based data network to deliver fiber-optic Internet services to every resident and business.
The project in Chesterfield won’t affect local taxes, which is what Prior said is so appealing about it. Consolidated Communications agreed to guarantee the $1.8 million bond over 20 years and contribute about $2.5 million in additional funding. Subscribers will pay for the principal and interest on the bond through an up-to-$10 monthly fee added to their service charges.
In March, officials said the Chesterfield project would likely take one to two years to complete.
Westmoreland wants to do nearly the same thing, Prior said, and information sessions like the one slated for Monday will help the advisory committee spread the word. Kahn; Rep. Paul Berch, D-Westmoreland; and someone from the office of U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., have all RSVP’d, and Prior said the issue extends beyond one town or region.
“It’s a statewide problem,” he said, and Monday’s meeting is open to anyone interested in learning more, whether they are Westmoreland residents or not.
The meeting will be held at Westmoreland Town Hall Monday at 6:30 p.m.
This article has been changed to correct that a representative from U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster's office has RSVP'd to Monday's meeting.