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Letter: Lexington needs more options

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Please visit (Mass Muni Choice). In Lexington, NStar and Verizon own the phone poles, which also support other media, Internet, communications and electric services. This is too important a resource to leave in the hands of large ineffective utilities.

Several examples illustrate why:

1. Three consecutive double phone poles (a new pole braced to the old one) stood in front of our house for well over three years, even though state law requires utilities to remove double poles in 90 days. It took months and endless, often unreturned, calls into the utilities to finally get the old poles removed. For years, nearly half of the poles on Bow Street have been doubles.

2. Access to the Internet is becoming a necessity for families and businesses. Communications companies charge $50 and more monthly for even very low-usage access to the web. Wireless, broadband over power lines, or other technologies could reduce costs and bypass traditional mechanisms, enabling open competition and better access for residents. Claiming that municipal wireless systems would be unfair "competition," large cable companies have promoted legislation that would force a town to get their approval before implementing a wireless system. Municipal ownership of poles and wires would give us flexibility to test or adopt such technologies.

3. Concord has put much of their cabling underground, especially in historic districts. Such improvements are not an option in Lexington because NStar and Verizon control the infrastructure. NStar is near the bottom of the list in customer satisfaction surveys and has no plans to put utility wires underground.

A tech-savvy networking specialist friend of ours from Shrewsbury gets electric, Internet and cable services all from his local municipal utility (or "muni") - and he loves it. His town's service is inexpensive and effective. Electricity costs are 25 percent less with munis than NStar, saving residents millions annually, a welcome benefit given our periodic struggles with overrides of similar magnitude.

Concord, Belmont, Wellesley and dozens of other communities in Massachusetts have a muni. We need one in Lexington too, to take control of our utility infrastructure, save us money and make our town less expensive and more equitable. Please support Jay Kaufman's bill (more information and action items at the Web site listed at the top of this letter) to make new munis possible.

Henry Kon
Leah Baigell
Bow Street