Ridgefield is seeking federal funds for broadband, high-speed Internet

RIDGEFIELD – The city aims to use prospective federal funds to ensure every resident has access to broadband, high-speed Internet service.

To that end, Ridgefield contracted with a software development company to conduct a feasibility study to see how close the city is to getting high-speed internet for all. As a result of a survey conducted in the city, it was found that residents and businesses rated their internet services poorly.

“It’s a fiber that sends light signals, so the amount of data you can transmit is almost infinite, and the speed is much higher than anything we’ve experienced,” Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said in describing broadband.

The purpose of the settlement is to approve the administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which would provide $65 billion to ensure that every American has access to reliable high-speed Internet through a historic investment in deploying broadband infrastructure.

In 2023, the government will see which cities are “broadband ready” and allocate $40 billion to these projects. Municipalities mapped with “shovel-ready” plans in place will be best positioned for this funding.

To help the city “shovel readiness,” Marconi signed a three-way agreement between the city of Ridgefield, the Western Connecticut Council of Governments and the city of EntryPoint Networks, which develops software to conduct Broadband Feasibility Studies.

“The first phase is a broadband feasibility study to try to decide a number of things like where are the fiber lines now? What type of structure are you going to have for fiber? Is it going to be a private model, a public model? a private partnership or just public? Open access will it be?” Gloria Norwitt, chairman of the city’s Economic and Community Development Commission, said.

Having robust broadband networks is “critical infrastructure for Ridgefield,” he added, and said the city has been working since March to begin a feasibility study.

According to EntryPoint, it will take about four months to complete the study, he said.

The Western Connecticut Council of Governments, or WestCOG, will fund the $35,000 study through a grant program.

The next step in achieving city-wide broadband will be an engineering study covering the specifics of locations in the city for fiber implementation. The study will be able to tell exactly how many homes have broadband. Norwitt said remaining America’s Rescue Plan Act funds may be available to pay for that research.

Need for broadband internet

The city has been in need of high-speed internet service for several years.

Ridgefield’s 2020 Conservation and Development Plan said the city’s goal is to promote high-speed/high-capacity broadband service to all parts of the city.

Additionally, in 2021, the first selectman’s office conducted Ridgefield’s “Internet Service Provider Customer Satisfaction Survey,” in which the city received a “D” rating.

Overall, about 10 percent of Ridgefield’s households and businesses responded, listing residential and business Internet services.

Residents rated their current internet service a “D+” and businesses rated their current internet service a “D”.

For residential internet service:

  • 85 percent of the city uses Comcast as their Internet service provider, 15 percent uses Frontier (the State Broadband Administration considers anyone with Frontier service to have sub-broadband speeds due to aging infrastructure that does not have 25 megabits per second/3 megabits basic broadband speeds .second)
  • 72 percent regularly experience short service interruptions
  • 61 percent more people experience slowdowns when using the Internet at work or at home
  • 10 percent have no problems

For business internet service:

  • 10 percent more people complain about slowdowns when using the Internet
  • 8 percent report errors or delays when streaming video
  • 12 percent report short service interruptions
  • Businesses along the Route 7 corridor report business internet service outages at least once a week.

The city recently planned to allocate $45,000 in America’s Rescue Plan Act funds for broadband research. But after WestCOG offered to fund the study, the city decided to use the funds.

“Our goal is to provide open access. That means if we can build this infrastructure with the federal government’s money … open access will allow you to choose who you want to do business with and not have Frontier tell you, accept their products or Comcast you have to, you have to accept their products. It opens the playing field and makes it a more competitive market for all residents of our city,” Marconi said. “It’s something we really want to provide to our community, and we want to be at the front of the line when the money comes out of the federal government.”

Source link