Survey work for Greenfield internet provider proceeds, with 3 precincts done

JOHN LUNT

JOHN LUNT

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 11-19-2023 12:33 PM

GREENFIELD — Despite a complicated process of working with Eversource and Verizon, a majority of the survey work in the northern part of the city has been completed, affecting Precincts 1, 2 and 9, according to GCET General Manager John Lunt.

“It has taken a long time to work with them to get through the multiple stages we have to go through,” Lunt said at a recent City Council meeting. “They’re big companies and the truth is the public way for telecommunications … is one of the most highly regulated spaces you’ll ever find in any municipality.”

The expansion, which seeks to increase access to the locally owned service, marks the internet service provider’s last big section of the city, Lunt said previously. Supported in part by $650,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, as many as 1,000 new homes will have access once the expansion work is complete, bringing GCET — which stands for Greenfield Community Energy and Technology — up to 89% coverage.

The process involves working with the two companies to survey every utility pole in the area. Lunt explained that within the northern section, three groups have been moved to “make-ready,” which means making necessary changes to safely accommodate additional cables and determining whether a pole is in need of replacement.

Lunt said he couldn’t give councilors a certain timeline for when the work would be done, given the reliance on Verizon and Eversource to do their portion. Still, he said, it could be closer to weeks, than months or years. He noted GCET has yet to reconcile with Verizon and Eversource on how many utility poles should be replaced in the area of Country Club Road, Log Plain Road, Adams Road and Lovers Lane. Likely, Lunt said, Adams Road and Lovers Lane will be sectioned out.

“In every step, what we try to do is take the money we have to spend and cover the most people we possibly can,” he said.

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Lunt said he anticipates the expansion will help GCET increase its retained earnings — funds that will be helpful for allowing GCET to expand access to “unique locations,” such as large apartment buildings or low-income housing complexes. Some owners have said yes, but under the stipulation that GCET does the work on their terms. Wiring these buildings, he said, most of which are privately owned, can be “extraordinarily expensive” at almost 25 to 30 times the cost of a typical residence.

“It’s not that people are good or bad, they just have different priorities,” Lunt said. “Getting everyone to see it’s in everyone’s best interest is, in my opinion, the first way we should do it.”

After years of saying no, management at Berkshire Apartments on Smith Street has given GCET access, he said. Greenfield Housing Authority also recently signed an agreement with GCET for Elm Terrace.

“One way we can work around the issues we have regarding costs in wiring up big buildings is to continue to try to work with the owners of those buildings and convince them,” Lunt said. “It takes a while but it can be done.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.