Dartmouth explores town-owned internet options

Jan 10, 2024

The Town of Dartmouth is considering installing its own fiber optic broadband network with the mission of providing its residents with greater options for cheaper, more reliable internet. Town Hall held an open forum on Jan.9 to discuss the project and take questions.

The Town contracted EntryPoint Networks, a research and development company specializing in fiber optic internet, to explore the project’s feasibility in Dartmouth. EntryPoint is currently surveying Dartmouth to see if there’s consumer demand for fiber optic internet in the area. 

People can fill out the brief survey by going to dartmouthfiber.com. So far, 600 people have taken the survey, but they need at least 1000 completed surveys before they can draw any conclusions from the data. 

Comcast and Verizon are two of the dominant internet providers in Dartmouth. However, EntryPoint CEO Jeff Christensen said a town-owned fiber optic network would give people more internet service providers to choose from. Christensen said that competition is the key to driving internet prices down and improving internet reliability overall. Internet access is directly linked to people’s livelihood, he said, and that’s driving the need for faster, cheaper internet. 

“The new economy is the digital economy,” he said. “For those of us who work from home or rely heavily on this infrastructure, it’s much harder to participate in the economy if we have bad tools.”

People who work from home or attend school virtually need reliable internet as much as they need other essential services like electricity or water, he said. 

“You can’t participate in the economy if you don’t have a certain level of speed or if you can’t afford it,” he said. 

Software engineer and web designer Tyler Oliver, who lives at Bliss Corner, was among the people who attended the Jan. 9 meeting. Oliver needs fast internet to stay productive, but he said that Xfinity isn’t cutting it. Uploading a 1 gigabyte file can take as long as 40 minutes, enough time for him to go to the kitchen for a sandwich. 

“It’s a nuisance,” Oliver said. 

The Municipal Broadband Advisory Committee is advising the Town on the benefits and feasibility of creating a Dartmouth-owned broadband network. Committee Chairperson Saul Raposo said affordable, quick internet is “vital” to Dartmouth’s future. 

Raposo said the committee’s main goal is to improve local internet service by giving people a greater selection of internet service providers to choose from. Expressing his frustration with Comcast’s internet service, Raposo said major internet providers have an obligation to their customers. 

“We need to inject some competition into the system,” Raposo said. “For the betterment of our community, for the betterment of our future, this is why we’re doing this.” 

If the project were to pass a Town Meeting vote, Raposo said the construction of Dartmouth’s fiber optic network would likely begin along the more densely packed Route 6 corridor where demand is higher. Once installed, Christensen said the fiber optic cables will be durable enough to last over 50 years.

It’s inevitable that Dartmouth will get a fiber optic network, Christensen said, it’s just a matter of whether the Town or a monopoly will own it.