Haverhill Takes Next Step in Internet Competition; SiFi Networks Would be Open Service Provider

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The dream of bridging the digital divide in the City of Haverhill continues to move closer to reality as the Haverhill City Council last week agreed to allow Mayor James J. Fiorentini to move ahead with a proposal by SiFi Networks to turn the Shoe City into a Fiber City.

SiFi’s plan would have that company fund, design, build, operate and maintain a citywide fiber network, which would provide digital access to every home and business in the city. Frederic Feit, a telecommunications consultant from Tilson Technologies explained.

“In general, the SiFi proposal was to construct, at 100% SiFi’s expense, an open access fiber to Haverhill that would be able to connect 100% of all of the premises within the city limits,” he said.

Feit said the network would provide not only internet access but video as well. Additionally, it would be operated as an “open service provider” meaning…

“They would not be a retail service provider. They would sell access to the network at wholesale rates to multiple internet service providers.”

Feit said the obvious advantage is the elimination of a monopoly by one service entity, providing more choices and very likely reduced rates. SiFi has said the cost for the entire project will run from $80 to $90 million.

The plan is not without potential problems. The company uses a process called micro trenching where the fiber cable is buried approximately one foot deep. This can be an issue in colder climate areas and, in fact, a test run in the city of Salem, Mass., which is also interested in developing a fiber network, recently failed. SiFi says it has developed an alternative method which they believe eliminates that problem.

Haverhill City Councilor John A. Michitson. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Councilor John A. Michitson, a longtime advocate for fiber optics in the city, told the Council he has spoken with the chief highway inspector for the city of Boston where they have used micro trenching successfully in the past.

“Boston has been using micro trenching successfully for over five years in Boston for 5G service providers. The depth that they selected was six inches and it is easier to maintain than traditional trenches for water and sewer,” he explained.

The Council agreed the time is right, particularly with the availability of federal money for such projects, to delve further into the plan. Members voted unanimously to authorize the mayor to move ahead with discussions with the developer.

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