By signing this petition, I urge the Town of Amherst to commission a feasibility study on the costs and benefits of developing a municipal broadband internet system. I urge the newly elected Town Council to support the proposal for a feasibility study, in order to demonstrate their commitment to net neutrality, privacy, economic development, and the public interest.
In Massachusetts, Cambridge, Northampton, Chicopee, and Springfield have opened dialogues on the development of municipal internet projects, with Chicopee and Cambridge having commissioned studies that point to the benefits of municipal broadband. Leverett, Westfield, and Holyoke have led the way with the creation of their own public fiber internet services. By pursuing municipal internet, the Town of Amherst would be at the forefront of a technological revolution that is taking place in towns and cities across the country.
The town of Amherst has unique qualities and resources that make it an ideal match for a public internet system. The presence of major educational institutions in town create a vast pool of knowledge, interdisciplinary skill, and advocacy that would be crucial to organizing this initiative. Additionally, the existing fiber networks in Amherst center, including the Five College Fiber Optic Network and MassBroadband 123, present a unique and untapped opportunity for building a publicly-owned internet service.
In this day and age, the internet plays a role nearly as essential as other utilities. The internet provides information, resources, and services that are often critical for day-to-day tasks. It is important that internet service providers are committed to the public interest and treat the service as such. Yet, the public is often faced with inconsistency and service slowed by dated telecommunications infrastructure.
Municipal internet systems can offer many benefits to users and the town as a whole, such as cost savings, protection of a free and open internet (net neutrality), privacy, and economic development.
The City of Holyoke saves over $300,000 each year through the use of its own municipal broadband network. Holyoke also benefits from agreements to provide public agencies in Chicopee and Greenfield with internet services.
A study by Magellan Advisors for the Chicopee’s public utility company determined a municipal broadband system would save the city money and increase business activity.
Net neutrality: A public internet system belongs to the people. This means that the internet system will be open and will not be constrained by private interests.
Privacy: Private internet service providers have access to your data, which they can use and sell without you knowing. A public internet system will serve the Amherst residents by protecting their data. In 2017, Comcast stated that they will not sell the data of their internet users when Net Neutrality rules were repealed. However, this statement is misleading, as Comcast does not need to sell your data, but instead uses personal data to sell targeted ad spots, thus, still profiting off of your personal data.
Economic development: Affordable, high-speed internet will improve the efficiency of processes at current businesses and attract new business. With high-speed internet at home, more people may be able to run businesses out of the home or comfortably work remotely.
The unique situation of Amherst:
Amherst has three existing fiber networks that pass through the downtown area. These fiber networks have greater capacity and allow for higher speeds than the copper wires that internet service is traditionally carried through.
Amherst, as a central location of the Five College area, offers the knowledge and skills of a highly educated, interdisciplinary population.