Can We Have Broadband Throughout Andover?

By Tina Cotton, Cable TV Committee

New Hampshire is the recipient of a three-year, $44.5 million grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand broadband Internet access throughout the state. Broadband is defined here as 768 kilobytes per second (kbps) downstream to a computer or similar device and 200 kbps upstream from a computer.

Dial-up Internet access is considered insufficient because of capacity and speed. Broadband — DSL, satellite, or cable access — are necessary, with DSL considered minimum and cable the best, according to Carol Miller of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED), who is overseeing access nodes for neighborhood distribution.

DSL is the slowest broadband technology and is currently unregulated. Satellite has had problems with delay, weather-related problems, caps on usage, and generally 12 megabyte download and 1 megabyte upload speeds. Cable uses bundled fiber-optic strands, which are considered the best for download, upload, and reliability.

Access to broadband is considered essential for moving the economy forward—”be wired or be gone.” Broadband coverage is essential for government information, business, safety, entertainment, publications, community development, and many other aspects of our lives, both now and in the future.

To explore broadband coverage as of June, 2012, visit There you can read about the broadband program, click on interactive maps, including Andover, and test your download and upload speeds.

The North Country was considered the least covered and economically challenged area of New Hampshire and, therefore, has received priority. Tamworth and Center Sandwich have citizens who have taken it upon themselves to install wireless coverage ( and; Tamworth has town-wide coverage, using their Town Hall as a hub.

Wireless uses radio frequencies with equipment similar to what Jonathan Cotton installed for the Blackwater Ski Area and the Proctor hockey rink and for real-time data gathering in the White Mountains for the Mount Washington Observatory. Fairpoint has been expanding its DSL coverage, with 95% active by November 1, and the rest in the coming year. Similarly, TDS has received grants to “turn up” its service.

Both wireless and satellite rely upon line-of-sight between the subscriber and the provider. Mobile wireless relies upon cellular providers with 3G or 4G capability. Twenty microwave towers will further expand statewide and interstate coverage.

The Lakes Region Planning Commission is gathering information for the 30 towns in its area. I am part of the stakeholders group, which is assessing needs, barriers, and solutions enabling broadband accessibility for all in the Lakes Region. John and I recently gathered GPS data for coverage in areas of Andover that were in question. Initial information was provided by TDS and Comcast.

The federal grant, with some matching state funding, is assessing needs and implementation. “Dark” (inactive) fiber is being laid, and the cost to “light up” (activate) the fiber must be borne by individuals, neighbors, towns, and grants. The best-wired governments worldwide are publicly supported (Iceland, Scandinavia, Hong Kong). Towns need to be proactive and should have a communications section in their master plans to accommodate proactive ordinances and public utilities, such as those currently being considered by Ashland.

Franchise agreements should be relatively short, because the competitive and technological landscape is changing so quickly. Political, social, geographic barriers, regulatory issues, profitability for providers, and affordability for users are issues that all need to be considered. Individuals have various price tiers, depending upon their needs and the provider. For instance, Verizon may charge $50 for the first gigabyte, but users typically need at least 12 gigabytes.

What are some of the broadband uses we might not be aware of? The expansion of Interstate 93 from Manchester to Concord has incorporated fiber-optic cable for Intelligent Transportation. The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) will receive real-time traffic speeds, and flashing signs will immediately warn motorists of traffic delays and detours.

New Hampshire Safe Net plans to combine communications between DRED, DOT, police, National Guard, medical facilities, emergency responders, Fish and Game, fire responders, public access TV (like Andover’s Cable Channel 8), and New Hampshire Public TV (NHPTV) datacasting. Digital files, including video, pictures, voice, and text, will be transmitted to NHPTV, which can communicate directly as a hub with all involved. Hospitals and doctors can share patient information across state boundaries. Technological innovations and applications will only increase in the future.

Bottom line — if you have been unable to get Internet service (including e-mail), stay tuned. Broadband is coming to you.

You will have to subscribe to a provider of your choice, but you will have access from the comfort of your home. In the meantime, the libraries and other Town buildings are available.

Years ago, Roger Godwin successfully negotiated with the original cable company franchise to wire all government and educational facilities with coverage at no cost to Andover; that initial cable has been replaced with bundled fiber-optic cable. Both libraries offer free Wi-Fi, comfy chairs, and tables to use with your device, as well as computers for public use.