WILBRAHAM — Wilbraham is moving another step closer to a town-owned high-speed internet system. The Broadband Advisory Committee sent out a request for quotes to design a fiber optic network throughout the town.

Broadband Advisory Committee Chair Tom Newton said the project is at a “critical stage.” A concrete understanding of the cost of the network will help residents decide whether they are interested in using the system. The number of customers, or “take rate,” will determine the cost to consumers and the system’s ability to be self-sustaining.

“We have no intention of raising taxes or utilizing tax dollars,” said Newton. Instead, the cost of the system would be paid by users through an enterprise fund, similar to how the town handles the cost of water and sewer.

Many towns are investing in municipal broadband systems, but Newton said Wilbraham’s approach is “night and day to what other towns are doing.” While he emphasized that he was not disparaging other towns for bringing high-speed internet to a town by partnering with a third-party company, he said “When a town opts to partner with a company like Whip City Fiber” — which owns and operates the infrastructure and internet service — “there’s really no difference between them and Comcast or Charter.”

Newton talked about the benefits of a town-owned system.

Wilbraham is working with EntryPoint Networks to create a platform for ISPs to offer their services. He likened it to owning a highway and charging the ISPs tolls for using it. The idea is that customers would be able to switch between services on the platform easily, creating competition and driving down prices, Newton said.

The cost of building the infrastructure would be added to the service cost, and customers would receive a bill reflecting both costs. Once the infrastructure bond is paid off, the bill would only reflect the charge for internet service. The Broadband Advisory Committee is aiming to keep the combined cost for internet service and the infrastructure to $60 per month or less, but Newton said the committee will have a firm understanding of the numbers after the quotes come back.

The cost will also depend on the number of internet customers interested in switching to the town’s broadband platform. Newton said that a take rate of 65% of potential customers is average for these types of projects. So far, almost 800 of the total 1,414 households in Wilbraham have indicated their interest on the project’s website, wilbrahamfiber.com. Having people express interest online gives the committee an idea about what the take rate would be. There is no commitment for those who have expressed interest. He urged people to go to the website to learn more and let the committee know if they are interested.

There are two main ways the network of broadband cables can be laid out — either strung along poles or buried underground.

“We’re hoping to bury as much as possible, so we’re not attaching to poles that are not owned by the town,” Newton said, although he noted it would not be possible to bury the cables everywhere due to terrain, private land and other factors. While it is more expensive to bury the lines, Newton explained that the town would save by not paying fees to the utilities that own the poles.

Another benefit is that the lines would be protected from storms and tree damage, limiting the need for repair costs. When repairs are required, Newton said the town will either need to contract with a repair company, or perhaps hire its own maintenance personnel.

Newton speculated that the most efficient way to build out the network would be in sections, with the first connections along Boston Road, where the volume of businesses lends itself to a high number of customers. “We have to get the main arteries done first to get the plant making money,” he said.

Beyond the high-speed internet access, there are other potential benefits to the town. Newton said property values would likely increase for homes with a high-speed connection or the option to connect to the system. Being wired for fiber may also attract new residents to Wilbraham, he said.

The quotes are due on May 7 and the bidding companies will be vetted by EntryPoint Networks to ensure their plans will work for their system. The committee will present a broadband network design plan to voters at the October town meeting. For more information about EntryPoint Networks, visit entpnt.com.