Archive for November, 2014

Good article on the smart grid implications:


On September 23 the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved severe increases in electricity billing rates, which the National Grid company had requested only one week before. From November 1 through April 30, basic service rates for home use will nearly double, from 8.3 cents per kilowatt hour to 16.2 cents.

The new rate will add approximately $30 to the average monthly bill this winter and is more than 60 percent higher than last year’s winter rate. Small commercial and industrial users will also suffer large increases, with their basic service rate increasing to 15.138 cents/kWh on November 1.

The rate increase was railroaded through DPU’s approval process. National Grid submitted its “request” on September 16 and demanded a response within five business days. The DPU caved in so cravenly that on October 2 the state Attorney General’s office sent it a letter quoting a 2001 DPU ruling “that rate structure changes should be made in a predictable and gradual manner which allows consumers reasonable time to adjust their consumption patterns.” The AG’s office, however, is unable to request any changes to the current rate hikes except for deferring some of them to next summer.

This is happening in the Berkshires. Sheffield decided not to do it because Time Warner had a good bit of the town covered. I asked the fiber optic folks if we could run the smart grid through it and they said yes but no utilities show interest in that!


Western Massachusetts is involved in three national issues concerning internet access: dramatically increasing connection speeds with broadband fiber-optic networks; having municipalities deploy those networks; and extending broadband service throughout rural America.

The US badly trails other countries in the speed and cost of broadband. The New York Times recently reported that in many cities in Europe and Asia users can download a high-definition movie in about seven seconds, paying as little as $30 a month for their connection. But in New York and Los Angeles, that download takes about 12 times as long from the fastest available service, at 10 times the cost.

Unsatisfied with their service from big providers like Comcast and Verizon, many municipalities are looking to build their own fiber networks to compete with them. However,laws in 20 states impede cities and towns from providing broadband to their citizens. In a controversial move, the Federal Communications Commission is considering preempting such restrictions.

In many rural areas, the issue is not lack of competition, but no broadband service at all. The big companies have bypassed many small towns. Here in Berkshire County, 16 towns have no cable service; another three are served by an antiquated Charter cable system offering TV but no internet.

At last, significant progress is being made to solve this problem. 44 towns in Berkshire and adjacent counties formed a municipal cooperative, WiredWest, to deploy a regional fiber network. Massachusetts allows towns to do so under a law enacted in the early 20th century to enable municipalities to provide electricity.

Earlier this year the Massachusetts Broadband Institute completed a “middle mile” network connecting town halls and other public facilities. To extend the “last mile” to homes and businesses, Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill in August authorizing bonds to provide $50 million to MBI for that purpose. In September Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg held a meeting in his office with the Western Mass. legislative delegation, WiredWest, MBI and other involved parties. Everyone agreed that WiredWest and MBI should work together to implement a regional last-mile network.

Since then WiredWest, MBI and engineering, financial and legal experts have been working diligently on a last-mile plan. They are now holding meetings with town Select Board and Finance Committee members to discuss that plan, and seek their input and participation. It provides that MBI will build the network, and WiredWest will own and operate it on behalf of the towns.

To participate in the last-mile project, a town must take these steps:

  1. By Dec. 31, its Select Board must pass a non-binding resolution expressing the town’s intent to participate;
  2. As early as next spring at a town meeting, it must authorize the issuance of bonds to cover the town’s share of construction costs above the funds contributed by MBI;
  3. At the same time, 40 percent of households in a town must sign a conditional contract to take service — Internet, phone and/or TV — when it becomes available.

That qualifies it as a “Fiber Town” on the network.

WiredWest and MBI will work closely with towns to help them complete these steps. If all eligible towns participate, their total share of construction costs is estimated to be $60 million or more. Towns will be on the hook for the bonds they issue, but according to the plan, WiredWest anticipates reimbursing them in whole or part for their debt service payments.

While there are risks in moving forward, for a town not to act is to risk being left behind with poor internet service, perhaps for many years, with serious consequences for its economic well-being and quality of life.

Providing broadband in our small towns is no easy task. The key to success is doing it on a regional basis, to benefit from economies of scale, share the challenges, retain professional management and deliver excellent customer service. For a town to try building and operating its own fiber network on such a small scale would be far riskier. With towns joining together to help finance a regional fiber network owned and operated by their cooperative WiredWest, western Massachusetts will become a national leader in “bringing broadband home” to people in rural areas.

Steve Nelson is Legal/Governance Chair of WiredWest. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of WiredWest.

EMF testing devices

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

This is a good site if you need to find out if your space is subject to high EMFs. They also have one that measures the body to see what levels EMFs affect you.