CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — On Saturday, voters will decide whether the town should borrow $1.8 million to extend a fiber optic broadband network to every home and business in Chesterfield.
"With this, we are leading the state, and as far as I know, the country, in this type of public/private partnership," said Jon McKeon, chairman of the Chesterfield Board of Selectmen. "It will elevate Chesterfield's ability to serve its residents and make the town much more desirable for new businesses to come to town."
Brad Roscoe began the project while he was on the Board of Selectmen and kept at it after he left the board. He said the project is especially important for economic development in Chesterfield. "The people in town are just looking at their own needs, but I can tell you this is a huge value for the town. It should be a huge economic boost."
The total cost for the broadband project is $4.3 million. Consolidated Communications, which purchased the assets of FairPoint Communications in July 2017, will put up $2.5 million of its own money.
"This is a no-brainer in my mind," said Roscoe. "It will cost the taxpayers nothing. The subscribers will pay for it through the infrastructure fee so it doesn't affect taxes at all."
As part of the agreement, he said, if Consolidated's subscriber base can't cover the costs of the bond payments, Consolidated will make up the difference.
"And, if for some reason Consolidated was to file bankruptcy, the town would own the infrastructure and would be able to offer it to a new provider," he said.
The network would provide speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second, with an up-to-$10-a-month infrastructure fee attached to the regular bill. Depending on the service, overall customer charges will run from $49.99 to $199 a month. To hookup every home and business in Chesterfield will take between 12 and 24 months.
During the life of the bond, the infrastructure will be owned by the town, said Rob Koester, Vice President of Consumer Product at Consolidated Communications.
"We have multiple constituencies to satisfy, not only internally but also the bond bank," he said. "Over the period of the bond, the town will own the infrastructure and lease it back to us. After the bond is paid off, we will own it. While the town owns it, we will still be responsible for repair, maintenance and installations."
Consolidated Communications is headquartered in Mattoon, Illinois, and provides service to customers in 23 states.
"This is a first for us in terms of the bonding," said Koester. "It's been enabled by the legislation passed in the State House. This is ground-breaking legislation and is how a public/private partnership should work."
New Hampshire towns were given the authority to issue bonds for broadband infrastructure when the state passed Senate Bill 170, which was sponsored by Sen. Jay Kahn, who represents Cheshire County, and Rep. John Bordenet, who represents Keene.
Roscoe said the project wouldn't have gotten this far without the assistance of Kahn and Bordenet.
"They did a great job of pulling together all the parties and factions to come up with a good compromise," said Roscoe.
Other towns in Cheshire County are watching the vote in Chesterfield and might follow in the town's lead, he said.
"Sen. Kahn holds a meeting of Cheshire County towns every three months to share stories," said Roscoe. "All the towns want to know how it's going with us."
If the town does approve the bond, said Koester, Consolidated will consult with town officials as to how best to start the project and which parts of towns should be first on the list to get the cable.
"There are some areas of the town they would like to see covered sooner rather than later," he said. Once the project gets rolling, Consolidated will work with local contractors when necessary on rolling out cable, putting up new poles and installations.
There are other internet, phone and cable providers in Chesterfield, and they will continue to do business in town. Even though each home will have a fiber optic cable hookup, those other providers won't have access to Consolidated's infrastructure, said McKeon. Even if folks don't sign up for Consolidated's services, he said, everyone who has a landline phone in their home will be hooked up via the fiber optic cable.
Chris Dufresne, the chairwoman of Chesterfield's Economic Development Committee, said providing high-speed internet access to all homes and businesses is vitally important to the town's economic health.
"Employers are allowing more and more employees to work remotely," said Dufresne. "These individuals do not want to move their office to the local Starbucks, or anywhere else for that matter, to gain access to the internet. Bringing broadband to Chesterfield will also help the many small businesses to compete without having to make major investments."
More and more students are relying on high-speed internet, too, to complete school assignments, she said. "Children are provided laptops with to complete assignments. Think of the impact that has on their performance when reliable internet is not available in their homes."
In today,'s world, said Dufresne, having dependable internet service is akin to having electricity and indoor plumbing.
"It's a necessity," she said.
Dufresne said that while many people chipped in on the effort to bring fiber optic to Chesterfield, including members of the Economic Development Committee and present and former members of the Board of Selectmen, Roscoe deserves most of the credit.
"We are very fortunate that a member of our community like Brad Roscoe has worked so diligently to bring this to fruition," she said. "I sincerely hope the voters in Chesterfield support this endeavor Tuesday."
The broadband project is one of 40 articles town voters will be asked to make decisions on starting at 10 a.m at the Chesterfield School. Those articles include, but are not limited to: $3.6 million for the general expenses; $257,000 for the resurfacing of town roads; $167,000 for a new highway truck; $4,000 for four bulletproof vests for the police department; $24,000 to upgrade technology infrastructure in the Town Offices; and $244,000 for various capital reserve funds.
Article 40, a resolution submitted by petition, calls upon the federal government "to embrace the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and make global nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of our national security policy." It also calls upon the federal government to renounce the first-strike use of nuclear weapons and end the unchecked authority of the president to launch a nuclear attack.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or firstname.lastname@example.org.