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FTTH FAQs

What is fiber-to-the-home (FTTH)?

Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), also known as fiber-to-the-premise, is the use of optical fiber cables to bring high speed Internet connectivity directly to a particular customer location or residence.

Municipal FTTH offerings only include Internet service and do not account for cable television. Typically, customers who subscribe to service through FTTH offerings are “cutting the cord” and streaming entertainment over the Internet.

What does it mean to “cut the cord”?

Customers who “cut the cord” forgo their bundled service (cable, Internet, phone), and subscribe to fiber Internet only. If television service is required, customers would have the opportunity to stream programs over a fiber Internet connection though services like Hulu, Netflix, Sling, etc. Subscribing to these services provide some of the traditional cable TV programming via apps. 

What are the advantages of cutting the cord?

Internet streaming services offer a wide variety of content without requiring a long term contract.  Customers can select the packages they want to pay for, cancel when they want, and then restart if they choose. In this way, some customers will be able to save money; but with so many options available, other customers could end up spending more. A lot of content is available, but maybe not everything. In selecting a streaming service or services, make sure your current entertainment needs are met.

Not having a contract offers customers flexibility, but also leaves you more vulnerable to rate increases. Similarly, VOIP (Voice over IP) or land line phone over the internet is available from several different providers. Prices range from free to $30 a month, depending on the level of service you require. Some users prefer to use their cell phones instead, and avoid the cost of a land line altogether.

That’s the advantage of cutting the cord: it gives you more choices and it’s up to you to make the choice.

If HG&E offers Fiber-to-the-Home (Broadband Internet), what will the service cost?

FTTH service rates would have to be set at a level sufficient to recover capital build-out costs, as well as to sustain operations and maintain requirements for network upkeep. With that in mind, customers can anticipate a monthly fee between $90 and $120. In addition, the cost of any wiring done inside your residence may not be included. This amount can vary widely. The cost of Internet streaming services would be another cost, ranging from free to as much as $200 a month.

Are there any programs available for low income households?

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline Program provides up to a $9.25 monthly discount for low-income subscribers. A household may receive a Lifeline discount on either phone or broadband internet service, but not on both at the same time. For more information on eligibility and how to apply for the Lifeline program, go to https://www.fcc.gov/lifeline-consumers.

The FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 established a $3.2 billion fund to help Americans afford internet service during the pandemic. The EBB Program will conclude when the fund is expended or six months after the end of the public health emergency. For more information on eligibility go to https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit

Your current provider likely offers both programs. If HG&E offers residential fiber, these opportunities will be evaluated.

 

If the project moves forward, what Internet speed would HG&E offer?

HG&E would offer a Gigabit (Gig) of speed to residential broadband customers. This service can offer speeds up to gigabit-per-second when uploading and downloading content.

What equipment do I need for fiber Internet service?

Customers will need an Optical Network Terminal (ONT), similar to a cable modem, and WiFi router, which you may be able to rent from HG&E for approximately $10 per month. If you'd prefer to purchase the equipment, the ONT and router would be approximately $200. Streaming requires either a smart TV or a streaming device like a RokuApple TV, or Amazon Fire and a subscription to a streaming service. 

Will HG&E offer phone service?

Depending on the level of interest for a home telephone solution, HG&E might offer this service.

Does FTTH include cable service?

No. Municipal FTTH would only include Internet service. Customers who subscribe to FTTH service would be “cutting the cord” and streaming entertainment over the Internet.

How does an HD antenna work and where can I buy one?

HD antennas work very much the way old-style antennas did in the early days of TV.  Both indoor and outdoor models are available. The advantage is that, once you have paid for the hardware, you can get local TV stations without paying a monthly fee. However, how successful you will be is very much dependent on your location, surrounding trees, mountains, buildings, etc. – just like in the early days of TV.

HD antennas are available in a wide range of types, quality, and prices from numerous sources.

When will HG&E start offering FTTH?

HG&E is studying the feasibility of a residential fiber network at this time. If research indicates sufficient demand for service, we will provide a rollout plan and time line.

If you are interested in a municipal fiber internet option, please complete HG&E's fiber Internet interest form. 

Has HG&E performed a residential Internet pilot?

Over the last several years, HG&E has had the opportunity to provide a pilot FTTH program at two residential developments within Holyoke, The Cubit (164 Race Street) and Chestnut Park Apartments (70 Chestnut Street). Both pilot programs were installed during construction and redevelopment of these properties, allowing for easy access and wiring of fiber for each apartment.

The Cubit pilot has been successful, consistently resulting in high subscription rates - residential apartments, as well as the business on the first floor. The Chestnut Park Apartments have not yielded any consistent revenue or activity. 

What is the history of fiber optics in the City of Holyoke?

In 1998, HG&E constructed a fiber optic network in order to serve its utility needs, as well as to provide high speed internet service to Holyoke's public schools and municipal buildings. As a natural extension of this business model, HG&E began serving commercial customers that were located along the fiber network path. Today, HG&E, through HGE.Net, continues to provide high speed internet services to business customers.

HG&E has been evaluating a broader build-out to serve the residential sector, similar to other area municipal projects. Preliminary estimates indicate that a City-wide network build-out could cost upwards of $30 million, so HG&E is taking a deliberate and thoughtful approach to the FTTH evaluation. While HG&E is capable of providing residential FTTH service, there must be sufficient interest and demand for the service in order for the venture to be economically viable and not have an adverse impact on utility rates.

In order to determine the level of interest in the community, we are asking customers to complete a fiber Internet interest form. 

Who are HG&E’s current fiber customers?

Today, HG&E Telecommunications (HGE.net) provides Internet service to municipal buildings, local schools, and commercial customers. Making a connection from the existing fiber network to a customer location can cost several thousand dollars. Typically, businesses are able to spread the installation costs over several months and sign a three-year service contract in return.

In addition, HGE.net is serving two apartment buildings, the Cubit and Chestnut Park Apartments, as part of a residential FTTH pilot program.

Does HG&E offer residential fiber service?

Yes, HGE.net is currently administering two residential pilot programs at the Cubit and Chestnut Park Apartments. During the redevelopment of these two buildings, HGE.net was able to work with the property owners to cost-effectively install fiber in the buildings and offer customers broadband service at competitive rates.

HG&E has been evaluating an incremental and City-wide build-out to serve the residential sector, similar to other area municipal projects. Preliminary estimates indicate that a City-wide network build-out could cost upwards of $30 million. 

In order to determine the level of interest in the community, we are asking customers to complete a fiber Internet interest form. 

Can I sign up for fiber service?

Not yet. HG&E is in the process of studying the feasibility of a FTTH project for Holyoke. We are committed to being responsive to our customers and look forward to sharing more about this project with you in the near future. 

Is HG&E providing internet service to residents outside of Holyoke?

No, HG&E does not provide residential internet service outside of Holyoke. In some communities outside of Holyoke, HG&E does provide wholesale internet services to certain Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) and those ISP’s then sell internet services to the residents of the community.

HG&E has provided consulting services and project management services to several Western Massachusetts communities that have built, or are currently building, FTTH networks. These engagements have helped HG&E develop additional expertise in the design, construction and operation of FTTH networks, and have provided additional revenue to HG&E.

If this project moves forward, would HG&E offer FTTH to customers who live outside Holyoke's city limits (i.e. Southampton)?

HG&E is studying the feasibility of offering FTTH within the City of Holyoke. As we move forward in our evaluation of this service, HG&E will consider opportunities to serve our utility customers in Southampton on a case by case basis. If you are an HG&E customer who lives in Southampton and you are interested in FTTH, please complete the interest form.

What would a residential fiber build out cost in Holyoke?

The current estimate for a full FTTH deployment to all customers is upwards of $30 Million. HG&E is in the process of evaluating an incremental build-out of smaller neighborhoods, or fiberhoods, over time. This is similar to the approach being taken by some other Municipal Light Plants in the region. Under this approach the City is segmented into several fiberhoods, and the fiberhoods are built-out based on customer interest and available funding.

If you are interested in a municipal fiber internet option, please complete HG&E's fiber Internet interest form. 

What is the success rate in other communities that have built a residential fiber network?

Projects constructed in areas where there is no incumbent provider have been extremely successful. In areas where there is already access to cable and internet (like Holyoke), the outcomes are mixed.

What are the major risks of a FTTH build in Holyoke?

There are several factors that contribute to the overall risk of a project like this, which is the reason HG&E is proceeding carefully. Some of the factors include:

Cost – The cost of a full deployment could cost upwards of $30 Million. A project of this magnitude bears a significant risk to HG&E’s current service model, credit rating and financial position.

Market—There is a limited market base within Holyoke and HG&E would be competing directly with the incumbent provider, while offering fewer products (Internet only). There are many advantages to fiber, but HG&E is cautiously reviewing the potential take rate and the types of subscribers that would be willing to move to a faster Internet service with no cable components.

Technology –The pace of technological change continues to accelerate and there is always the risk that a disruptive and competing technology could arrive on the marketplace and have a significant negative impact on any FTTH investment.

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