Michitson, Chamber’s Sherwood Tout Benefits of Municipal Broadband

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson. (Courtesy photograph.)

Tired of the Comcast monopoly in Haverhill? So is City Council President John A. Michitson. If the local leader has his way, Haverhill residents might just have their say on products and pricing with the introduction of municipal broadband.

At the March 12 City Council meeting, Michitson recommended the city solicit proposals for fiber optic network installation in Haverhill. Through a municipal broadband program, Michitson said the city would own and control the fiber, letting any internet service provider take part—with the trickle-down effect meaning competition and more consumer control.

“You go to a website, and if you don’t like the one providing service to you, you pick another one,” Michitson said during his overview of programs in place in cities like Chattanooga, Tenn. Closer to home, Salem, Mass. works with a company called SiFi to offer infrastructure at no cost to the city.

Currently, Comcast is the city’s sole provider, with Mayor James J. Fiorentini and the Cable Advisory Committee having no luck bringing others to the table.

Such a monopoly, Michitson said, puts the city at a disadvantage.

“Back in the 1950s, if you didn’t have an exit off the major highway, you were in trouble as far as economic development goes,” he said. “Well, the new highway is broadband and the Internet.”

Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dougan Sherwood

During his presentation on emerging technology, Michitson implored Fiorentini to consider including Internet connectivity in his master plan.

Dougan Sherwood, the president of Haverhill’s Chamber of Commerce, sees promise in Michitson’s plan. On the March 18 episode of WHAV’s Open Mic Show, Sherwood told host Bill Macek improvements could help the city stand out from an economic development standpoint.

“It represents some big thinking, it’s attainable, completely possible and could absolutely be the type of thing that changes how people perceive Haverhill from the outside,” Sherwood said.

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