Vermont Community Broadband website

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Robert Espindola

Dec 16, 2023, 5:18:23 PM12/16/23
to, B
Good afternoon Coalition members.

David Cole, from Westport, recommended that the following link be shared with you all.



David Cole

Dec 16, 2023, 7:06:36 PM12/16/23
to Robert Espindola,, B
Dear Coalition Members,

I asked Bob to share this link with you because it seemed to me that the Vermont Community Broadband system has many very desirable features that some of us have been seeking to achieve in our local programs and therefore that it might make sense to encourage our local legislators to look at this model and consider whether we should try to create similar enabling legislation in Massachusetts. I would hope that we might discuss this possibility at our next meeting.

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David Isenberg

Dec 16, 2023, 7:42:40 PM12/16/23
to David Cole, Robert Espindola,, B
I'm not sure why we're boning up on the details of Vermont law. Are we trying to change Massachusetts law? We have a pretty good Massachusetts law, chapter 164. Let's be clear... Do we need to change Massachusetts law to get better broadband in our towns, or would chapter 164 work for us if we understood what it can and can't do?
To be sure ch 164 is not perfect but for many towns it has been good enough.

Let's be clear about our objectives.

David I

David Cole

Dec 17, 2023, 10:12:44 AM12/17/23
to David Isenberg, Robert Espindola,, B
David I et al,

What caught my attention about the Vermont Community Broadband System is that we in Westport have been getting push-back from our Town Attorneys about whether the existing Mass. legislation in Chapter 164, and especially Section 47E, provides a sufficient basis for establishing an MLP for providing broadband services only. The Vermont legislation seemed to provide solid bases not only for  this action but also for public/private partnerships and collaboration across communities without requiring that each community raise its own infrastructure financing as the Mass. Coop legislation seems to do.

I thought that the Vermont system provided both a good model for how to achieve the various objectives of our publicly owned broadband, and also some actual legislative wording that we might try to incorporate into our Mass. legislation. 

If that seems like too ambitious an undertaking, perhaps we can reach out to other members of the Coalition for documents or local legislation that has been used in setting up your MLPs without push-back from your attorneys. It may be that our attorneys are particularly sensitive to the possibility that some of the private ISPs in Mass. will begin to challenge some of out MLP initiatives in the courts as they seem to be doing in various other ways and more aggressively in recent times.

I defer to Bob and others as to whether this is worth pursuing, but I would welcome some feedback as to whether other communities have encountered the legal push-back that we are experiencing and, if so, how that was resolved. Even some good examples of local legislation or experience in resolving these legal challenges would be helpful.


David Isenberg

Dec 17, 2023, 10:45:56 AM12/17/23
David Cole and others,

I attach a spreadsheet I put together in 2021 showing every Mass MLP
I could find, and attempting a summary of what each offers.

It is a DRAFT - I circulated it to see if somebody more knowledgeable
than me could fix errors, add missing data, etc., but, even though I
had several interesting discussions, nobody stepped up to offer
additional improvements, corrections, etc. So this work stopped in
2021 - it probably needs updating - not to mention editing and,
almost certainly, correction.

(Want to help with this??? Let's talk off-list -

My spreadsheet shows many Mass towns with operating broadband-only
MLPs, and Wired West still exists as a 47E entity (afaik) although
much-diminished from its original ambition.

I have seen a state attorney advisory that throws uncertainty and
doubt on Chapter 164. This came from the Charlie Baker administration,
which was not particularly friendly to local efforts. So I urge
skepticism when viewing such opinions - there may be political bias
baked in.

If you're looking for a Chapter 164 expert attorney with a helpful
attitude towards towns, I can recommend Jack Ferriter 413 535 4200 <> - there are probably others, but I've had
useful first hand experience with Mr. Ferriter.

Best regards,
David I

Tom Newton

Dec 17, 2023, 11:34:33 AM12/17/23
to David Isenberg,
Morning, all:

If it helps any, residents in the Town of Wilbraham voted to approve MLP status a decade ago and we've encountered zero pushback from any legal or legislative sources since. At its root, the MLP law simply empowers a municipality with unencumbered access to (as I recall) the top 3 feet of space on existing utility poles. While the municipality can then legally string fiber in that space, they can only use it to connect town-owned facilities (i.e., town hall, police/fire stations, libraries, schools, etc.). Conversely, MLP status does not entitle municipalities to offer/sell commercial telecommunications services via any fiber strands attached to said poles within that dedicated space.

If I'm wrong on this, please forgive me - but if I'm correct, the attorney's concerns are seemingly much ado about nothing.

Hope this helps in some way...

Tom Newton
Chair, Wilbraham Broadband Advisory Committee 


Dec 17, 2023, 11:40:11 AM12/17/23
to Tom Newton, David Isenberg,
Does Wilbraham co own or fully own thr poles, or are they verizon or eversources (or both)

The use of the muni space on the pole is a huge question in Bourne since it's something like 120k per year difference in licensing fees. We have spoken with various towns. Some are able to use the muni space and some are not for their MLP.  Some towns have had issues with the pole owners trying to use the muni space and some have not.   We have been trying to figure out which entities are allowed to legally use thr muni space 

Sent From Phone

Tom Newton

Dec 17, 2023, 1:20:28 PM12/17/23
to B, David Isenberg,
We do not own our poles and, to the best of my knowledge, didn't get any pushback from NatGrid and/or Verizon when stranding fiber, nor have they demanded any pole attachment fees since. I'm also unaware of any other entities trying to infringe on our dedicated pole space... but I'm not as connected with those issues from an official capacity, either.

That said, I'm thinking our attorneys should be digging in on how to fully protect their municipal client's interests to the extent the MLP law allows as opposed to whether or not incumbent providers are gearing up for a potentially nonexistent battle.


Sean Gonsalves

Dec 17, 2023, 1:41:33 PM12/17/23
to Tom Newton, B, David Isenberg,
Utility pole owners cannot stop telecom entities fr attaching to poles. They can delay it (mostly because they don’t want a competitor using their poles.) There is make ready work and fees, yes. And that can be tricky, slow down construction and thereby add costs to a project. In some instances, the pole attachment process has convinced a few network builders elsewhere to go underground, which is typically more expensive but only if pole attachment process isn’t jacking up price of deployment. 

Also, fiber has to be attached at a certain part of the pole (under the power lines). The FCC just put out new rules to govern pole attachment issues in an effort to streamline process in the face of BEAD. However, the FCC only has authority to set pole attachment terms in 26 states. The other states have their own laws that supersede FCC rules on this. Alas, Massachusetts is not one of the 26 states

There was a bill introduced in MA a few years ago that we wrote about to make this process easier though I don’t know what came of it. Story on that at the following link

This issue recently surfaced in West Springfield, which we wrote about here 

Perhaps the coalition could invite Westfield Gas & Electric/Whip City Fiber to speak on this. They have extensive experience with this in MA

Sean Gonsalves
Associate Director for Communications
Community Broadband Networks Initiative 
Institute for Local Self Reliance


Dec 17, 2023, 1:45:59 PM12/17/23
to Sean Gonsalves, Tom Newton, David Isenberg,
I believe Shutesbury mlp had litigation with verizon over the bond requirement and is stuck paying those along with pole lease fees.  If various towns lawyers have found a way to dodge those they would appreciate it. 

Concord doesn't have these issues, but they co own the poles.

I've added in Mark in Concord and Gayle in Shutesbury in case they want to add anything. 

The costs are significant and each town has gotten wildly different treatment in regards to the the muni space. This might be an area for collective action since it would drive down the cost of municipal owned (mlp, enterprise fund, direct ownership) down if these costs can be consistently avoided.

I've got a call with whip city soon and can ask if they want to join in an effort to remove these fees. 

Sent From Phone


Dec 17, 2023, 1:47:53 PM12/17/23
to Sean Gonsalves, Tom Newton, David Isenberg,,, MARK HOWELL
Forgot to add the emails for Shutesbury and Concord. In Cc now

Sent From Phone


Dec 20, 2023, 4:00:53 PM12/20/23
to, Sean Gonsalves, Tom Newton, David Isenberg,, MARK HOWELL
Can we start a spreadsheet of what towns are paying bonds and pole lease fees and what are not ?

Whip city says they are generally paying them even when building in muni space.

I know concord does not.  Not sure who the others are who have these waived. 

Sent From Phone

On Mon, Dec 18, 2023, 10:06 AM <> wrote:



-We operate under MGL Chap 164 successfully, no legal problems or pushback, as a broadband-only MLP. Several other towns do as well throughout the state (Leverett, New Salem, Wendell just to name a few)

-Caveat is the broadband-only operations have only been done in very small towns to date that I know of. Not sure if incumbent  private providers will make challenges when much larger towns like yours start up MLPs that risk their profits, but there is a solid precedent for broadband only MLPs in our state.

-Note that Westfield, Holyoke and South Hadly all run electric in their towns already. Creating a fiber network on poles you already own is not a problem at all. See more on why it is so hard when you don’t own the poles below.

-Our legal challenge was to try to get the annual pole bond (ie pole insurance) removed for MLP entities. We tried to argue that MLPs are different from private providers because we are backed by tax base and therefor unlikely to go bankrupt and abandoned equipment that would then need to be removed. We lost this appeal.


Overview explaining the challenges of hanging fiber on poles you (your town) doesn’t own:


All 1508 utility poles in our town are joint owned by National Grid, Eversource, and Verizon. So, after submitting costly applications to each of these companies we had to wait for them to move the equipment and wires in order to make room for our fiber. They are legally obligated to do this for any provider, public or private, that requests it.


The process involves submitting an application, waiting for the utility companies to evaluate every pole, give you an estimate for the work. They submit an invoice and you pay for all of the “make ready” work  and then finally they got around to actually doing the work, granting your license, and only then can you begin construction. After the work is done, you pay more if the work exceeds their original estimates. But you also receive a refund if it is less (rarely!). This is known as the “true-up” process.


It took almost two years and cost over $1 million to complete the entire make-ready process. It cost more to do the make-ready work than it did to construct the network’s mainline. It accounted for about 1/3 of the total project costs. In some case you pay to “upgrade” the utility network because they need to install a taller or better pole to support your equipment. It is a frustrating and expensive process but unless you want to do a wholly underground network or install your own pole network, it’s the best we have.





Gayle Huntress

MLP Manager, Town of Shutesbury

413-887-8505 (Direct)

For 24/7 Customer Service please call: 855-415-7592

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