MONTEREY — After many twists and turns, the town has a new broadband strategy.
In its ongoing effort to get the whole town wired for high-speed internet, Monterey officials will hire an accounting firm to take a look at a local internet company's books.
Doing so may put to rest, once and for all, worries that a local company can't handle the job of operating a fiber-optic network here.
The town is about to hire Bay State Municipal Accounting for help in its attempt to convince the state to allow Monterey-based Fiber Connect LLC to complete its system build-out here.
Fiber Connect has already wired about 40 percent of the town, and is continuing until it reaches about 70 percent by the end of the year, according to town Broadband Committee Chairman Cliff Weiss. The company, which is using its own money to wire Monterey, and also 70 percent of Egremont's premises, was not approved as a suitable provider by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, which oversees the state's last-mile funds to help rural towns without access get faster internet speeds.
The MBI said the new, Monterey-based company did not have a long enough financial track record to receive $1.2 million allocated by the state to Monterey, money that will pay to wire the remaining 30 percent of premises in town.
Weiss said hiring the accounting firm is a way to take the "emotion" out of what have been difficult negotiations at times between the town and MBI. This way, Weiss said, MBI will have an objective opinion of Fiber Connect's financials by an independent third party.
"We want to work with the MBI to find out what exactly they need in terms of a proposal, and to work with Fiber Connect and stakeholders in town to make sure we address all the issues," he said.
According to Fiber Connect founder Adam Chait, the company has so far wired utility poles for more than 200 homes and businesses in town. About 92 of those now have subscriptions for service. Chait estimates that there are roughly 850 premises in town, and he plans to continue the build-out to reach 600 of those with his fiber-optic system.
But the more Fiber Connect keeps wiring, the less of a chance a larger internet provider will want to compete in Monterey, Weiss said, noting that a representative from one company, Matrix Communications, said this at a recent meeting.
Town Select Board Chairman Steven Weisz said he's "hoping for a green light from MBI" that will allow Fiber Connect to finish the job. He has also said he wants to make sure service is affordable.
Fiber Connect has a steep one-time startup fee of $999, which Chait says is offered at a lower rate in "pre-construction areas." The monthly charge is $99 for residential customers, and $149 for businesses. Chait has previously said he would, in the future, provide discounts.
Weisz says he knows there will be a lot more negotiating all around, and that the results, as usual, are still uncertain.
"As you know, in these broadband discussions, anything can happen," he said.
Heather Bellow can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.