Here’s the latest on a couple of technology stories we’ve been tracking in Wellesley:
*WMLP as ISP: As we reported a year ago, the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant had put together an exploratory committee to investigate the possibility of offering broadband Internet service in town to residents/businesses/municipal groups. Trevor Criswell, energy services and planning manager with the WMLP, reports that a meeting at the end of August with the WMLP board went well and that a pilot program with commercial customers will go forward
A survey of commercial customers issued by the WMLP (see full results below) found that 60% of respondents would be interested in having town-supplied broadband service and that potential cost savings is a key attraction. One big question is whether customers who currently have phone/Internet/cable bundles from the big carriers would be willing to unbundle — about 70% of commercial customers who responded to the survey said they get bundled service (the residential number would likely be much higher).
“We’re fairly confident we can provide service that’s less expensive, faster and more reliable but… the question is can we attract enough customers?” says WMLP Director Dick Joyce.
Adds Criswell: “As we move forward in this process, we want an understanding of whether the benefits we provide would be sufficient enough to entice our customers to unbundle.”
The WMLP is drafting a solicitation for commercial customers and should have that ready this week. We’ll post about that when it’s ready.
Meanwhile, residential customers should expect the WMLP to roll out something for them after the commercial pilot, assuming that leads to actual service.
*Cellular network boosters: The WMLP has been working to improve cellular service in town since at least 2012 and WMLP Director Joyce says that in most respects the initial 48-node installation of distributed antenna systems (DAS) boxes that you might see on some utility poles in southern part of town and on the Babson College campus has “exceeded our expectations” in terms of improving cellular service for Verizon customers.
“We’re hoping Verizon expands to other areas of town but we haven’t been asked to provide any cost estimates,” Joyce notes. “There are two other major carriers showing interest and one has asked for estimates on the north side.”