Alford just about up to speed on connecting fiber-optic network subscribers
ALFORD — One of the smallest towns in the state now has some of the fastest internet around.
And Alford, population 486, has even connected some residents who live at the Egremont and West Stockbridge border who can't get service from other internet companies.
While it has had to pause the remaining installations due to a few problems that include frozen ground, the town has connected 91 percent of subscribers to the newly installed town-owned AlfordLink system, a fiber-optic network that is sporting speeds of 1 gigabyte, and is operated by Westfield Gas & Electric/Whip City Fiber.
The town's municipal light plant has activated 234 out of 257 subscribers, according to a statement from the AlfordLink Commission. Subscriptions are $110 a month, with an extra $12.95 for phone service.
It all has taken a decade of work by a tenacious Broadband Committee, town officials and residents.
After the town voted in 2014 to build and fund the system with financial and technical help from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, residents are finally seeing the grand payoff.
"The 20-year-olds were home over the holidays, and we had no problem with the four of us [using the internet]," said Peter Puciloski, who is chairman of the town's Broadband Committee. "In the past, we would get warnings that we hit our monthly 50 gigs or something. But there are no limitations here."
Puciloski, like many residents, previously was hamstrung by slow satellite service that prevented him from logging in to his office system in neighboring Great Barrington, where he practices law with his wife, Alexandra Glover.
Now, the situation has reversed — the house in Alford has faster speeds than the Great Barrington office.
"Instead of downloading at the office, I take it home and do it at home because it's so much faster," he said. "By a long shot."
The benefit has gone to some neighbors as well. One resident of West Stockbridge is connecting to the utilities in Alford because he is located in such a way that he can't get them from that town. Puciloski explained that the law now allows a town's internet operation to connect people in abutting towns as long as it doesn't compete with other companies.
"We can't do any more in West Stockbridge because of Charter [Communications]," he said.
And at the border in Egremont, about six homes also are being connected to the Alford system, since an internet company hasn't yet laid claim to some peripheral areas of that town.
"The utilities were put in without regard to town lines, so we're just following the poles," he said.
But owning your own system has its challenges, Puciloski said.
"We're learning all the things you never thought of before."
Heather Bellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.
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