New Ashford residents can register for high-speed internet at Saturday info meeting

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NEW ASHFORD — After seven years of effort, the digital age is about to come to town, bringing high-speed internet to residents for the first time.

New Ashford officials are publicizing a sign-up day/informational event Saturday morning, during which residents can register for high-speed internet through Whip City Fiber and learn more about the service. The service is expected to become available by late summer or early fall.

"We are so excited," said Lori Jayko, secretary and treasurer for New Ashford. "In fact, I just got dropped from the internet again. It's so slow — it drops you all the time. School kids do work online, but it's very hard for them. High-speed internet would make that a lot easier."

Whip City Fiber is a division of Westfield Gas & Electric, a municipally owned utility that branched out to bring high-speed internet to Westfield, and is now aiding other towns with tech support for that effort, including Becket, Washington, Otis and Windsor.

"New Ashford is kind of a cool town for us," said John Leary, information technology support technician for Whip City. "The idea of having this very small town being able to have really quite remarkable gigabyte speeds — this will be a game changer for New Ashford."

Leary said there are about 140 premises in New Ashford.

Jason Jayko, a member of the New Ashford Select Board and husband of Lori Jayko, said he and several others have been working to bring high-speed internet to town for about seven years. The effort has had a number of challenges, but once they connected with Whip City a couple of years ago, the pathway became clear.

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Whip City helped with estimating the cost, designing the project and connecting with Verizon and Eversource to acquire space on the utility poles to bring the fiber-optic cable through town.

Jason Jayko said Eversource has completed its effort to make space on the poles, but Verizon still has to handle its task of making room on each pole. Once they are done, contractors for Whip City will come in and install the fiber-optic cable through town and from the poles to the homes that sign up for the service.

He noted that the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative is providing $280,000 toward the cost of the installation project, and the town will kick in the other $420,000 with money from the town's free cash account and stabilization fund.

"Whip City was the logical choice for us," Jason Jayko said. "They've been excellent to work with — they are established and they have the knowledge. In contrast, Spectrum is a nightmare to deal with."

He declined to say what the residents will pay monthly for high-speed internet service, preferring to let them find out Saturday at the sign-up event. But he noted that it would probably be comparable to what they are paying now for phone and DSL service.

The DSL internet access that town residents use now is wholly inadequate for basic things like schoolwork, streaming video, webinars, training sessions and even emailing large files, Jason Jayko said. He also noted that online training sessions for the volunteer Fire Department are virtually impossible to view.

"It's hard right now, even if you want to work from home — it's just too slow," he said. "It's been a long road, but now everybody is eager."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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