Charter says West Stockbridge broadband buildout near; other towns face delays
WEST STOCKBRIDGE — When Gov. Charlie Baker rolled into the Berkshires last spring for a victory lap, he found business owners in West Stockbridge happy to help him celebrate the arrival of high-speed internet.
But the state still can't put a check mark on West Stockbridge broadband.
When the governor came May 16, much of the 18.7-square-mile town was still waiting for the expansion of service through Charter Spectrum. The prediction at the time: Work would be complete by this March.
While that estimate is expected to be met in West Stockbridge, a Charter spokesman said this week delays in getting approvals to string its cables on telephone and utility poles has slowed progress in two other towns, Hinsdale and Lanesborough, that are part of the same project.
Charter secured a $1.6 million grant in August 2016 from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to expand limited existing service throughout all three towns. The state's investment was an early stride forward after Baker's administration revamped its last-mile strategy in the spring of 2016.
In past months, Charter says it encountered delays in securing permission to attach the poles, and for the poles themselves to be prepared to receive new equipment, in the communities.
Andrew Russell, a company spokesman, said that work, which is outside the company's control, "pushed back the timeline for the remaining areas."
He said Charter now has all of the licenses it needs to complete work in West Stockbridge. All customers should be connected to Spectrum service by the end of February, Russell said, when the town's high-speed buildout will wrap up.
The same isn't true for Hinsdale and Lanesborough.
Russell said Charter is waiting for pole approvals in those towns.
"Once we have those licenses we expect to complete construction within 60 days," he said of Hinsdale and Lanesborough.
But when that final two-month countdown begins is up to Verizon and Eversource, which control use of the poles that still need what's known as "make ready" work to receive telecommunications cables.
Vivian Mason, a resident of Hinsdale eager to get high-speed internet service, reported seeing signs of progress last week.
"Charter trucks are all over town. I will cross my fingers," she said.
Larry Parnass can be reached at email@example.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.
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