WEST SPRINGFIELD — In the midst of strong winds and falling snow, representatives of West Springfield and Westfield Gas & Electric gathered Jan. 29 to officially break ground on a fiber-optic cable hut. It’s a significant development in the town’s municipal broadband project, which will provide internet and telephone service through WG&E subsidiary Whip City Fiber.

Fiber huts house all the wiring and infrastructure for a neighborhood. This hut, at 1695 Westfield St. in Mittineague Park, will serve 20 neighborhoods, said West Side Chief Technology Officer Stephanie Straitiff.

The hut will cost the town $637,677.14 and it will be paid using ARPA funds, federal pandemic relief grants. The whole project is estimated to cost $30 million. Most of that will be paid with bonds, said Straitiff. The network itself will generate revenue, which will be used to pay off debts.

WG&E Key Accounts Manager Brian Sullivan said the hut is a prefabricated concrete building that will be delivered to the construction site in three pieces. The pieces will be assembled on grade beams, which will act as the foundation. WG&E General Manager Tom Flaherty said construction on the beams was expected to start Jan. 30. Construction will be complete in June or July.

“It’s the first main construction piece,” Flaherty said, since West Springfield signed a contract with Whip City Fiber in 2021.

West Springfield submitted applications to Verizon and Eversource to use their utility poles as early as November 2021. In 2022, the town announced it was seeking applications for a pilot program to bring service to four neighborhoods in the Mittineague and Tatham area. A map of these neighborhoods, which will serve as a test to see if the town should continue building the network to reach all parts of West Springfield, can be seen at whipcityfiber.com/west-side/fiberapp.

Verizon and Eversource are still doing make-ready work on the poles, adjusting the position of pre-existing wires to fit the new cables. Flaherty said in the pilot neighborhoods, they are around 80% complete. He expects the companies to be done by April.

After the make-ready work and hut construction, Flaherty said WG&E will be ready to start stringing fiber-optic cable to their first West Springfield neighborhoods.

“We’re expecting to start fiber construction this spring,” said Straitiff.

The pilot neighborhoods should be hooked up in the second half of the year, Flaherty said. The program should begin by the end of the year, at which point the hut will become operational.

West Springfield is still accepting applications, said Stratiff, even outside the pilot neighborhoods, “just to collect interest in the area.” Residents can sign up at www.whipcityfiber.com/west-side. Whip City is advertising $74.95 per month for 1 gigabit internet service, with optional $19.95 per month telephone service.

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