On second thought: Chester passes on Wi-Fi subsidy

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By By Aaron Rubin • 06/21/2022 2:32 PM EST

A decision to use a grant from the Small Towns Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) to install a wifi system in central Chester was overturned on June 15 when the Board of Selectmen (BOS) found too many uncertainties – and a significant annual cost – associated with the project.

The system used to broadcast an Internet connection via wifi would include routers or hubs connected to LED streetlights, with service provided by Comcast. The $95,000 repayable grant was marked as an originally approved capital expenditure as part of the city’s 2022-23 fiscal year budget, while its specific extent from Main Street has not been determined. .

The uncertainty of its scope and other aspects of the grant were lifted when the BOS brought a motion to return the grant to the state.

Coach Edmund Meehan spoke about the future cost of the project, saying each connection to connected hubs or routers could cost between $110 and $130 per month, and that a recent estimate presented to the BOS revealed that annual costs could range from $25,000 to $29,000. . This is on top of the additional costs of license fees, maintenance, and any vendor services to perform analytics on system usage.

“It’s not an inexpensive business to set up,” Meehan said. “I fear incurring future costs in a system like this. And we don’t know how many people are going to use it.

Taking into account the total system costs, Meehan acknowledged that while the current wifi system in the city center is not entirely satisfactory, he is nevertheless personally uncomfortable with a public wifi system and has decided to cancel. the project.

“I suggest that board members respectfully request that the grant be rescinded,” he announced.

First coach Charlene Janecek said she didn’t know who was going to use wifi and how it would benefit the city. She and other board members agreed that such a system is for visitors to the city rather than residents, and noted that local businesses in the city have already installed wifi.

The only example cited for the system’s legitimacy for widespread use was Chester’s Sunday Market, where customers buying produce from food vendors have in the past complained of an inadequate internet connection when they don’t. only used banking services via debit cards to pay for food.

The motion to cancel the grant was approved.

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