| Lauren LeBel
CHICOPEE — While much progress has been made regarding Chicopee Electric Light’s Crossroads Fiber installation, there is still more that needs to be done.
Crossroads Fiber is locally built broadband that offers fast and reliable service. “As of right now, 55% of homes in Chicopee have access to our service,” said Chicopee Electric Light and Crossroads Fiber Marketing Coordinator Mark Smith. He shared that they are hopeful to bring that up to 65% by the end of the year.
The project began in mid-2019 with the design and behind the scenes work. Actual construction did not begin until around 2020.
Smith explained that there are 144 different “fiberhoods” or neighborhoods in Chicopee. “Where we build next is based on interest,” he said, with the highest interest levels going first.
Mayor John Vieau shared that by the end of July, 75 fiberhoods were complete. Eight are currently under construction, with eight more to be completed by the end of the year.
Smith said they have been doing about 25 to 30 fiberhoods each year.
At press time, Vieau said Crossroads Fiber has 3,725 customers and 120 in installation.
Vieau, who lives on the outskirts of neighborhoods that already have the service, said he is excited to have it soon.
“I’m in the queue … I can’t wait to get my Crossroads Fiber,” he added.
Smith shared that COVID-19 was a “huge challenge” in the installation process as it “slowed construction dramatically.”
He noted that the electric company could not get supplies because of supply chain issues, which was a hurdle to overcome.
Other challenges have included some underground areas and getting shut out during the winter months, Smith added.
He shared that there has been some frustration expressed from residents who want the service but see other neighborhoods being built out. However, Smith reiterated that it is up to the resident’s and their interest levels.
Vieau said he is proud of the “fast, reliable services” that Chicopee Electric Light has been able to offer, including the Crossroads Fiber.
He went on to say that the company has established a positive working relationship with the city and its customers, carrying out its mission of supplying residents and businesses of Chicopee with electric or high-speed internet.
“[The] addition of Crossroads Fiber has been a blessing,” Vieau said.
To ensure fiber gets to your neighborhood, visit crossroadsfiber.net.
On Aug. 9, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at Massachusetts Technology Collaborative announced that Chicopee was accepted into the Municipal Digital Equity Planning Program. The program, which will fund technical assistance for 27 municipalities, helps them identify barriers to internet access, boost direct community engagement and carry out digital equity plans to close the digital divide. It will also reveal the best ways to enhance existing and potential future resources, build digital skills and engage residents to expand internet access, affordability and adoption in each community.
According to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, the city of Chicopee is looking to create the first city-wide digital equity plan that “[bridges] the gaps in digital equity, ensuring the wellbeing of and equitable service to all stakeholders.”
The plan will focus heavily on community engagement and be led by a joint organization of various city departments.