BFC Computing applied for a grant as part of the State’s CoVID-19 response under the CARES Act, to get everybody in Plainfield who does not currently have access to affordable broadband (defined by the FCC as 25 megabits down and 3 megabits up) online by the end of 2020, to enable remote learning, teleworking, content creation, telehealth, and family support (among other uses).
We invited Plainfield residents to a “Broadband Party” August 20th, after not hearing back from the State about our grant proposal (and hearing that the grants awarded thus far, mainly to the big telco companies, came in at almost twice what our proposal was). We sent postcards to everybody whom we were reasonably sure didn’t have broadband access. We connected with a great bunch of folks interested in getting broadband access to all of Plainfield!
We are collecting sign-ups to be on the installation list. We want to hear from everybody who wants to see the project succeed. We want to know if you need broadband, and we want to know if you are willing to help the project, especially helping out the folks who might need a creative way to finance the equipment costs that we’d hoped the grant would cover. It looks like it’s up to us to solve this problem ourselves, for our community.
We want to help absolutely everybody in Town, though the roll-out won’t be instantaneous and we will be prioritizing households who have schoolchildren who need to have access to reliable Zoom, and other distance-learning platforms. We aim to get service to everybody who needs it by the end of the calendar year.
We’ve started working on a video about how our little town solved its big broadband problem. We want to hear your story about the frustrations of low-bandwidth internet access, and we will check back after you’ve had a chance to try out the Starlink service.
Now’s the Time
We have driven every mile of public road in Plainfield to make a database of existing broadband infrastructure to understand real broadband availability, more accurately than what’s reported by the incumbent corporations or the New Hampshire Broadband Mapping and Planning Program. While the village centers and parts of roads near highways have Comcast high-speed Internet, large parts of Plainfield remain unserved and abandoned by the extant infrastructure and franchise contracts (which have no requirement to ever service those homes). Homes that are not grid-connected often have no options other than slow dial-up on regular phone lines.
Currently in Plainfield, approximately 160 households have no access to broadband Internet. This includes school children who cannot participate in their online educational resources, as video conferencing is part of the new educational standard.
How we’re going to fix it
The technology we selected to rapidly connect the broadband-unserved at low cost, is the cutting-edge SpaceX Starlink network, currently being deployed by semi-monthly Falcon 9 launches from Cape Canaveral.
Based on current information, we expect a Starlink connection at the end of the beta testing to look approximately like this:
- Download speed: 600Mbps (megabits)
- Upload speed: 60Mbps
- Latency: 40ms (rtt)
- Monthly cost: $80 to $100
These specifications are still preliminary but we do believe them to be close to correct. We will update this page as soon as we have final specifications.
We are somewhat in luck, as only the northern US and southern Canada qualify for the initial Starlink service, which will eventually be available globally.
By taking advantage of cutting-edge technology, we’re making possible what was impossible just yesterday.
What will it take?
The installation of Starlink will require a low-profile antenna, approximately the size of a pizza box, usually on a roof, mounted to a chimney, or on a pole in the yard.
We expect the first round of installs will be completed by December 2020. Our initial goal is to have every school child online ASAP.
Town of Plainfield residents only at this time, please. (It’s part of our deal to get early access to new technology in Plainfield.)
We will be prioritizing households that do not have qualifying broadband from another provider (Comcast, institutions, etc.) Households that only have access to DSL or capped cellular data plans qualify. Households with no Internet access, dial-up only, or old-fashioned satellite also qualify. If a household can nominally qualify for broadband but existing conditions make that broadband very unreliable (e.g. too unreliable for remote learning for school) then we’ll take that into consideration. Please let us know about any special challenges you face.
If you do currently have broadband service but want to check out Starlink’s service, sign up, and we’ll fit you into our schedule as soon as we can.
There’s a small chance that a house could be down in a hollow and surrounded by trees, that simply cannot get a good enough view of the sky for the system to work, but we will come out to check and make sure before disqualifying anybody – we expect this to be a very rare situation, if it exists at all. We have experience getting Internet to hard-to-reach homes. We’ll do our best and work with you to make it happen if it’s possible.
I’m not sure whether my connection qualifies as broadband
Try our speed test, to help us better gather data. If you get at least 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up, you have FCC-qualifying broadband.
My connection is OK but I’m interested in helping anyway!
Wonderful! Because Plainfield didn’t get selected for a broadband grant, we are looking for financial help for the non-broadband households most in need. Please fill out the form below if you can offer assistance in the form of a donation or loan to a household in need without broadband, lettting us know with a comment about how you can help.
Please fill out this form to express your interest or just to get updates on our progress:
Isn’t satellite Internet … ?
For those who may have heard that satellite internet is sub-optimal, please understand that the old technology definitely is. For example, the current main provider has three rented satellite transponders, twenty-five thousand miles above the Earth, shared across approximately five million customers. The altitude creates a very long delay in the signal, causing “lag” which makes the system unsuitable for teleconferencing. Being over capacity creates longer delays and results in tiny data caps being implemented on customers.
The Starlink system, by contrast, is starting with six hundred satellites, expanding to fourteen thousand (and then more in Phase II), with each cruising approximately two-hundred miles above the Earth. Because light travels faster in outer space than on Earth, Starlink can be even faster than ground-based Internet (laser signals are exchanged across the satellite mesh) and is responsive enough for the most demanding low-latency applications. The farther a Starlink signal has to go, the faster it is compared with terrestrial signals.
Who are you guys?
We’re Plainfield folks who’ve been helping Plainfield folks get rural Internet with creative solutions since 2004. Here’s one run through the woods we did where we had to calculate the height of a VDSL line based on maximum snowpack plus the height of a bull moose plus the height of his antlers!
What does the Town think?
We had the strong support of our Town’s Selectboard. Unfortunately, that didn’t help us get the State’s Emergency Broadband grant. Please see their letter of support below.
Please join us in helping to ensure that all Plainfield residents have equal-opportunity access to this essential resource.
We need to bridge the digital divide. Our goal is 100% availability – no less.