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Jessie Levine
Town Manager
New London, NH

October 21, 2010

As they work on the proposed budget, the Board of Selectmen is looking closely at benefits offered to Town employees. During their meeting on Monday, October 18, the Board of Selectmen asked me to survey health benefits offered by area businesses and non-profit organizations. To that end, we have developed a short (10-question) survey that we are asking all area businesses and organizations to complete. The survey is available on the Town website and also by clicking this link to Survey Monkey. The survey will close at noon on Thursday, October 28. Thank you in advance for your participation.


For the past five years, New London has been one of eight towns [Orford, Lyme, Hanover, Enfield, Springfield, Newbury, New London, and Sunapee] working together to bring a municipal fiber optic network to our region. Together we have engaged consultants, proposed enabling legislation, and explored funding opportunities with a goal of building a public network that would not compete against existing service providers but would instead enable competition among providers of all kinds. Just as municipalities construct and maintain roads yet do not compete with FedEx, UPS, or DHL to provide delivery services, we have sought the ability to construct public broadband infrastructure that could be shared by TDS, Fairpoint, Comcast, Segtel, and any other small or large local or national service providers.

In 2009, Town Meetings in each of the eight towns overwhelmingly approved the following warrant article: “To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to enter into a inter-municipal agreement by and among the towns of Orford, Lyme, Hanover, Enfield, Springfield, Newbury, New London, and Sunapee, to create a non-profit corporation to develop a broadband communications network, in accordance with RSA 53-A.” New Hampshire RSA 53-A is the state statute that authorizes municipalities to form agreements to permit them to “make the most efficient use of their powers by enabling them to cooperate with other municipalities and counties on a basis of mutual advantage…” 

Early this year, the eight towns began working closely with the Southwest Region Planning Commission (SRPC), the 34 towns of the SRPC region and the City of Keene, the NH Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA), the University System of NH, the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and a number of state agencies to develop a single statewide application for funds made available for broadband expansion through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In July we found out that our combined project, known as Network New Hampshire Now (NNHN), was awarded a $44.5 million grant to fund broadband expansion across the state.

The goal of this collaboration is to connect community anchor institutions (such as municipal buildings, schools, hospitals, and institutions of higher education), businesses, and homes in urban, suburban, and rural communities in New Hampshire for the purpose of economic development, education, healthcare, research, public safety and community services. The total grant is expected to create nearly 700 new jobs and provide affordable Internet access to 12,000 businesses and 700 community institutions, including those in our region and in our town.

The project has two major components:

1) Network New Hampshire Now (University System and state agencies) will construct a middle-mile fiber optic network that will pass through over 150 communities using new and existing fiber to connect higher education in NH to national higher education research networks and construct a statewide microwave wireless network to provide the broadband communication needs of public safety, transportation and public television; and

2) NH FastRoads (the 43 Upper Valley, Lake Sunapee and Southwest communities, along with CDFA and MEDC) will build the new infrastructure that is needed in these regions, leverage existing fiber where accessible, and open up the network to any service provider to serve the premises connected to the network. The grant award includes last mile build-out to the most rural portions of Rindge and Enfield. 

The term “middle mile” most often refers to the network connection between the last mile and greater Internet. For instance, in a rural area, the middle mile would likely connect the town's network to a larger metropolitan area where it interconnects with major carriers. The term “last mile” refers to the final leg of a connection between a service provider and the customer, such as to the home or business. One cannot have last mile without middle mile, but in our region, such as in Newbury and Springfield, build-out has often stopped at the middle mile thereby never bringing broadband to the more rural areas.

For the most part, New London’s involvement will be as one of the towns to be served by FastRoads, and the project “backbone” should pass by our community institutions within the next two years. FastRoads will charge providers a share of their revenue to cover infrastructure costs, debt service, and operations; the revenue returned to FastRoads will enable an additional last mile beyond the original grant award. FastRoads will create a revolving loan fund/equity fund and will use earnings from initial build-out to finance technical assistance and seed capital to replicate the model across the state until there is broadband access statewide.

Since September, FastRoads has been identifying staff and its Board of Directors and developing a timeline to kickoff the project and meet the federal requirements. FastRoads’ website is also being developed and updates will be available soon at www.newhampshirefastroads.net. Information about the larger Network NH Now project can be found on-line at www.networknhnow.org.

Although this raises questions of the cart and the horse, New Hampshire also received ARRA stimulus funding to develop a statewide broadband map to identify the areas most in need of broadband build-out. The New Hampshire Broadband Mapping Program (NHBMP) is a multi-year, multi-agency effort to map areas in the state that are currently served by the state’s 70+ broadband providers. The mapping program is a collaboration between UNH, the State’s nine regional planning commissions, and the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development/Division of Economic Development.

The efforts of these organizations, other partners, and the public will yield a mapped inventory of existing and planned broadband assets, as well as a view of locations in New Hampshire where there is either no or inadequate coverage. To that end, this fall the mapping program is conducting a series of public forums around the state to collect data about broadband service. All area residents, from New London and beyond, are encouraged to attend. During the sessions, participants will complete surveys and help document areas that are unserved (no broadband service) or under-served (inadequate service). This information is instrumental in guiding future broadband projects.

The next two workshops in our area, co-sponsored by our Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, are on Tuesday, November 2 from 6-8:00 PM at the River Valley Community College (Room 226) in Claremont, and on Thursday, November 18 from 5:00 – 7:00 PM at the Newport Town Offices.

If you cannot attend, or if you would like more information about the mapping project, visit www.iwantbroadbandnh.org. At that website, you may also communicate with project managers and conduct a speed test from your computer, the results of which will automatically be added to the collection of data.

 

Jessie Levine, Town Administrator
375 Main Street
New London, NH 03257

townadmin@nl-nh.com
Phone:
603-526-4821 extension 13
Fax: 603-526-9494

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