Haverhill to Hear Details of Possible Fiber-Based Internet and Telephone Competitor

Matrix Design Group’s Chris Lynch gives an overview to city councilors. (WHAV News photograph.)

A second possibility for a fiber optic network to compete with Comcast will soon be fleshed out by Haverhill city councilors.

Haverhill City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua.

At the request of Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua, councilors heard a preliminary overview Tuesday by New Jersey-based Matrix Design Group. Matrix’s Chris Lynch Haverhill wouldn’t have to go it alone on the more than $27 million project. He discussed a similar project in Petersham near Quabbin Reservoir.

“We are paying to design, build, operate and maintain the fiber network in that town at our own expense. We would be willing to do the same in the City of Haverhill,” he said.

Most of the steps involved in bringing the internet and telephone network would fall to Matrix. The project is good news for so-called cord-cutters who don’t want television services and prefer services such as Hulu and Netflix. Lynch told WHAV it would be up to the city to acquire the rights of way to use existing electric and telephone utility poles. He estimated that cost at about $7 million. The city would likely own the network just as it now owns the local water and sewer systems.

Lynch is expected to discuss how the city would recover its investment during a Wednesday, May 22, meeting of the council’s Planning and Development Committee. He did say, however, the fiber network could be started gradually, beginning with connection of all municipal buildings. Neighborhoods might be added by creating “betterment districts”—much in the same way neighborhoods have paid to bring in utility services. To be feasible, he said his company would look for at least 10 percent of households to subscribe to the service.

Bevilacqua explained the goals behind bringing in another proposal. “Try to increase competition, to provide better service to our city relative to internet and broadband.”

Matrix, associated with Millennium Communications, has built networks in 10 New England towns and is building five more. Haverhill’s costs estimates are based on the city’s 350 miles of roads and 22,000 households which results in 63.5 housing units per mile.

Entry Point Network of Colorado also recently presented its plans to the Planning and Development subcommittee.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Long a proponent of cable competition, Council President John A. Michitson said the city has the weigh the costs of hiring a consultant or use free resources to determine what path to follow. During an earlier meeting, Michitson said, the Comcast monopoly 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.”

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