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Around The Grange
Taghhannuck Grange Broadband Initiative
 

By Jill Drew, Taghhannuck Grange Member

  OCTOBER 25, 2020 --

It’s a widely known fact that rural areas of our country like Sharon, Ct are woefully underserved when it comes to reliable broadband internet service and cell phone connectivity. Advocates such as the Grange and political leaders have been working for more than a decade to change this fact, but it’s understandably difficult to attract big technology companies to spend tens of millions of dollars to build cutting-edge infrastructure in sparsely populated regions knowing that the return on their investment would be a fraction of what they could achieve in a city. 

Still, as more of our lives move online, especially during the pandemic when work-at-home for parents and distance learning for students became necessities to protect our health, the idea is growing that wiring everyone for broadband is akin to what wiring homes for electricity was a couple of generations ago: a must-have for a functioning economy. 

Three Taghhannuck Grange members are part of a small task force called Sharon Connect that is gathering data to help the town understand the needs of its residents for better connectivity and to become the basis for next steps to meet that need. Before Covid-19 struck, the task force held its meeting at the Grange Hall.

The task force has created a connectivity survey that 140 Sharon residents have taken online and which will now go out in the mail to all other residents who have not yet completed it. The survey asks about the speed of their internet connections, their level of satisfaction with the service and price they pay, the barriers they face to getting better service, and the quality of their cell phone connections. That information will be used to create a picture of current service in Sharon and will help its Selectmen decide about next steps to support better connectivity for residents. There is already support to add a broadband infrastructure project to the town’s five-year capital spending plan. 

In the short term, task force members are working with town officials and local school administrators to get wifi hotspots and cell phone boosters for families with students who need better connectivity. In the long term, it is exploring options for grants to raise funds for an engineering/feasibility study and business plan that would produce hard numbers to answer the question: what would it cost to wire all homes and businesses in Sharon with fiber-optic cable or to use the existing cable internet structure and build out to locations that currently have to rely on DSL or satellite connections? That infrastructure upgrade could transform the town’s economy, making it easy to work from home, take online courses, participate in telehealth appointments with medical specialists, manage farms more efficiently, and enable sophisticated home security features, among other benefits.

 
 
 

 
     
     
       
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