The hut is lit in Alford, and fiber broadband subscriptions begin to roll in

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ALFORD — There's a hot spot in this sleepy town these days — the fire house.

The draw? A super-fast internet connection to the tune of 1 gigabyte per second.

"The hut is lit," said Peter Puciloski, the town's new chairman of the Municipal Light Plant. "We put in a router, so you can go and experience 1 gigabyte. I've seen a bunch of people there downloading software rather than waiting at home."

While a townwide fiber-optic system isn't yet ready for all the town's homes and businesses, the fire house has a fiery internet connection.

It's a new feeling in this village with 507 residents. As finishing touches go into the fiber-optic buildout here, the town's municipal light plant is taking subscriptions, and already has 102 as of Thursday.

The poor connection struggles are a familiar Berkshire woe that is changing as rural towns have for years worked to bridge the digital divide, and as the state has leaned in to help this along in the last two years.

In Alford's case, the town voted in 2014 to borrow up to $1.6 million, and in August, the state pitched in $480,000. Puciloski, who replaced Robert Lichter, who died last month, said total capital and operating costs won't be clear until the work is completed, and all the subscriptions are in. The monthly rate for subscribers will be $110 for internet and $12.95 telephone, Puciloski said.

The town chose Westfield Gas & Electric/Whip City Fiber as its operator, and the pole attachment and other system work began in December. The town's 350 premises were initially expected to get high-speed service by mid to late spring.

Puciloski said while National Grid still has more work to do on some of the town's 800 utility poles over 22 miles of roadway, about 60 percent is done.

"It's been a slow process," he said.

The hut containing the fiber-optic system equipment sits next to the fire house, where it connects with MassBroadband 123, the state's middle-mile network.

That's why the fire house is so hot these days — so hot Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will come with her scissors April 24, 11:30 a.m., to cut the ribbon on the new hut, and a new life for Alford.

"We're getting there," Puciloski said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter at @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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