Ridgefield seeks federal funds for broadband, high-speed internet

RIDGEFIELD – The town intends to take advantage of upcoming state funding to ensure every resident has access to broadband, high-speed Internet service.

To that end, Ridgefield entered into an agreement with a software development company to conduct a feasibility study to determine how close the city is to achieving high-speed Internet for all. A city survey found that residents and businesses rated their internet service negatively.

“This is fiber that sends light signals so the amount of information you can transmit is almost limitless and the speed is more than anything we’ve ever experienced,” said Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, when describing broadband.

The city’s goal is to approve the government’s Bilateral Infrastructure Act, which will provide $65 billion to help ensure that every American has access to high-speed Internet through a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment.

By 2023, the government will determine which cities are “broadband ready” and allocate $40 billion to those projects. Municipalities with “shovel ready” plans will be in the best position to receive that money.

To help get the city “shovel ready,” Marconi signed a three-party contract between the city of Ridgefield, the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, and EntryPoint Networks, a software development company that will conduct a Broadband Feasibility Analysis.

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“The first phase is a broadband feasibility study to try to determine a lot of things like where are the fiber lines right now? What kind of fiber structure are you going to have? Is it going to be a private model, a public–private partnership, or public only? Is it going to be open access?” said Glori Norwitt, chairman of the Economic and Community Development Commission in this city.

He added that having strong broadband networks is “an important infrastructure for Ridgefield” and said that he has been wanting the city to start a study since March.

He said, according to EntryPoint, it will take about four months to complete the study.

The Western Connecticut Council of Governments, or WestCOG, will fund the $35,000 course through its grant program.

The next phase of getting broadband for the whole city will be an engineering study that will include the details of the areas in the city to implement the fiber. The survey will be able to tell exactly how many households have broadband. Norwitt said money left over from the American Rescue Plan Act may be available to pay for that study.

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The need for broadband

The town has seen a need for high speed internet service for several years.

Ridgefield’s 2020 Plan of Conservation & Development stated that the city’s goal is to promote high-speed/high-capacity broadband service to all parts of the city.

Additionally, in 2021, the first selectmen’s office conducted an “Internet Service Provider Consumer Satisfaction Survey” for Ridgefield, in which the city received a “D” rating.

Overall, nearly 10 percent of Ridgefield households and businesses responded, listing their residential and business Internet service.

Residents rated their current Internet service as a “D+” and businesses rated their current Internet service as a “D.”

For residential internet service:

  • 85 percent of the city uses Comcast as their Internet service provider, 15 percent uses Frontier (the State Broadband Office considers anyone with Frontier service less than broadband speed due to outdated infrastructure that lacks the basic speed of 25 megabits per second /3 megabits per second)
  • 72 percent often have short service interruptions
  • 61 percent experience a slowdown when more people use the Internet at business or at home
  • 10 percent have no problems at all
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For business internet service:

  • 10 percent complain about slow speeds when more people use the Internet
  • 8 percent reported disruption or lag while streaming video
  • 12 percent reported a brief service interruption
  • Businesses along the Route 7 corridor report that their business Internet service goes down at least once a week.

Recently, the city planned to allocate $45,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act funds to broadband research. However, when WestCOG offered the research funds, the city decided to use those funds.

“Our goal is to provide open access. Meaning if we can get this infrastructure built with money from the federal government … open access will allow you to choose who you want to do business with and not tell you Frontier. , you have to accept their products or Comcast, you have to accept their products. This opens up the field and makes it a more competitive market for all the citizens of our city,” said Marconi. “This is something we really want to provide to our community and we want to be at the forefront when the money comes from the federal government.”

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