High-speed internet is coming to every home in New Britain, says mayor


NEW BRITAIN — It’s been three long years of virtual meetings, distance learning and telehealth visits for local residents without high-speed internet, but the wait is almost over.

The City of New Britain and GoNetspeed Internet on Wednesday announced a new $5 million partnership that will provide everyone in the city with high-speed fiber internet access at no cost to taxpayers.

Although the project will not be completed in time for the start of the school year in the fall, Mayor Erin Stewart expects it to be operational around the middle of the school year. GoNetspeed has yet to discuss with companies using GoNetspeed’s fiber poles and begin installing them.

“If we ever go back to remote learning, kids will have a bigger opportunity,” Stewart said. “Think of it this way: apart from the kids, it’s interesting for people who want to move to the city to know that there is more than one option.”

GoNetspeed is a Rochester, NY-based internet provider that has expanded to other Connecticut communities in recent months, but is the first municipality to develop such a partnership with supplier.

Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act will fuel the project, which is the largest of its kind in Connecticut. Stewart said she and other city leaders were not interested in being “their own ISP” and determined that a public-private partnership was the only option.

“Public-private partnerships are scary,” Stewart said. ” Let’s be realistic. They are. We take this leap of faith together.

Census data shows around 25% of New Britain residents did not have a broadband subscription between 2016 and 2020. A 2020 survey by the state Department of Education reported that 6 % of Connecticut residents said broadband access was a barrier to remote learning.

GoNetspeed was one of five bidders seeking to be the city’s supplier. Stewart said the selection process was “competitive.” GoNetspeed COO Tom Perrone hopes the partnership can serve as a model for other municipalities across the country.

“It’s bigger than a single city,” Perrone said. “It’s the whole nation that needs infrastructure built.”

Pricing for families will be $39.99 per month for the first year and $49.99 per month for each subsequent year. Installation costs are waived.

The project will reach 40,000 homes and businesses and 128 municipal buildings and street light cameras for municipal use.

The difficulties students and families faced when trying to do remote learning during the height of the pandemic motivated Stewart to find a solution to the problem.

“You’re talking about three or four kids in a household who couldn’t spontaneously be on the internet at the same time,” Stewart said. “It actually diminished school performance.”

Two specific schools in New Britain, Smalley Elementary and North End Elementary, have seen academic impact due to lack of internet access, according to Stewart.

Since COVID-19 revealed these gaps in internet access in the city, Stewart said the city has been considering various ideas on how to get broadband for families.

“We had Schaler Honda, which had Wi-Fi spots in cars that they sat in specific neighborhoods to provide access,” Stewart said.

In some parts of New Britain, there is only one internet service provider available. This means that if the family cannot afford this service, they do without the Internet.

“We want to provide infrastructure, we want to have a competitive environment, but we’re also very passionate about our service delivery,” Perrone said.

Stewart said at home she only had one option — Frontier.

“The price is absolutely ridiculous,” Stewart said. “$250 per month.”

Residents can check the progress of the project by going to www.gonetspeed.com and clicking on “check availability”. They can enter their email address to receive updates.


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