Internet connectivity is a necessity in twenty first-century America. We work and attend school online. We conduct meetings, share information, access entertainment, and, increasingly, obtain vital services such as healthcare on the web. Yet even as our dependence on the Internet grows, some areas of the U.S. remain without the necessary infrastructure to keep pace.
Not all of these Internet deserts are rural. In smaller cities, incumbent Internet service providers (ISPs) can dominate the market, declining to upgrade services beyond the minimum speeds allowed for broadband by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
This study describes how one small community in western Massachusetts addressed the need for reasonably priced high-speed symmetrical broadband service through the installation of a fiber optic infrastructure that not only serves the city but has prompted and facilitated similar fiber adoption throughout the region. Through a carefully conceived and cleverly executed plan sponsored by a local utility, Westfield, Mass., became one of the first cities in the state to offer 1-Gb/s symmetrical Internet connectivity to residents, schools, hospitals, and businesses. While the region continues to benefit from existing service, a full 10-Gb/s will soon be available through a simple software upgrade for existing equipment.