Ridgefielders gives a grade of D to its internet providers

Ridgefielders gives a grade of D to its internet providers

RIDGEFIELD – The City aims to leverage potential federal funds to ensure every resident has access to high-speed broadband Internet service.

To this end, Ridgefield has entered into an agreement with a software development company to conduct a feasibility analysis to see how close the city is to achieving high-speed Internet for all. A town survey found that residents and businesses rated their internet service as poor.

“This is a fiber that sends light signals, so the amount of information you can send is almost limitless and the speed is beyond anything we’ve ever experienced,” said Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, when describing broadband.

The city’s goal relates to approval of the state’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which would provide $65 billion to help ensure every American has access to reliable, high-speed Internet through a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment.

In 2023, the government will know which towns are “shovel-ready for broadband” and will allocate $40 billion to these projects. Municipalities that are designated with “shovel ready” plans in place would be best suited for this funding.

To help outfit the town “shovel,” Marconi signed a three-party contract between Ridgefield Township, the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, and EntryPoint Networks, a software development company to conduct a broadband feasibility analysis.

“Phase one is a broadband feasibility study to try to determine a number of things like where are the fiber lines now? What kind of structure are you going to have for fiber? Will it be a private, public-private partnership model or just public? Will it be open access?” said Glory Norwit. , Chairman of the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee.

She added that having strong broadband networks is “vital infrastructure for Ridgefield” and said she has been pushing for the city to start a feasibility study since March.

She said, according to EntryPoint, it will take approximately four months to complete the study.

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

The next stage in acquiring broadband for the whole city will be an engineering study which will include the details of locations in the city for fiber implementation. The study will be able to determine the number of homes that have broadband. Norwit said remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan Act may be available to pay for that study.

The need for broadband

The city has known its need for high-speed internet 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 Choice Office conducted the Ridgefield “Internet Service Provider Customer Satisfaction Survey,” for which the city received a “D” rating.

In all, about 10 percent of homes and businesses in Ridgefield responded, rating their residential and commercial internet service.

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 its ISP, and 15 percent uses Frontier (the State Broadband Bureau considers anyone with Frontier service to have sub-par broadband speeds due to aging infrastructure that lacks basic broadband speeds of 25 Mbps / 3 megabits per second)
  • 72 percent regularly experience short interruptions in service
  • 61 percent experience slowdowns when multiple people use the internet at work or at home
  • 10 percent have no problems at all

For Business Internet Service:

  • 10 percent complain of slowdowns when many people use the Internet
  • 8 percent reported errors or lag while streaming video
  • 12 percent reported short service outages
  • Businesses along the Route 7 corridor report their commercial Internet service going down at least once a week.

Recently, the city was planning to allocate $45,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money for a broadband study. However, once WestCOG offered to fund the study, the city decided to use that money.

“Our goal is to provide open access. What this means is that if we can build this infrastructure with money from the federal government… then open access will allow you to choose who you want to do business with without Frontier telling you, you have to accept their product or Comcast,” Marconi said. You have to accept their products. This opens up the space and makes it a more competitive market for all residents in our town.” “This is something we really want to provide for our community and we want to be at the top of the list when the money comes from the federal government.”

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