Editor's Note: Rep. Randy Hunt introduced a budget amendment recently to provide seed money for OpenCape to pilot test a residential fiber broadband service here on Cape Cod. That amendment did not advance in the house. We understand that the material was passed to Senator Julian Cyr to see if he could move it forward in the Senate. Senator Cyr has not yet indicated if he will try to promote the pilot test.
Meanwhile, the Baker Polito Administration has awarded over $4.6 million to several towns in Western Massachusetts for their municipal broadband projects. See the Governor's office's press statement below:
Today the Baker-Polito Administration announced more than $4.6 million in grants to Ashfield, Leyden, Mt. Washington, Plainfield, Shutesbury, and Windsor to design, engineer, and construct a municipally-owned broadband network. The network will provide coverage for 96% of the town, and offer speeds up to 25 Megabits per second for downloads, and 3 megabits per second for uploads.
"These investments represent our administration’s continued commitment to closing the Commonwealth's broadband connectivity gap and to expediting municipal projects ready and willing to build out this critical infrastructure,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Today’s awards are another positive step forward and an important milestone since our relaunch of the entire Last Mile program one year ago. We’re looking forward to moving several other towns forward in the weeks and months ahead.”
“As with our Community Compacts, the Last Mile Infrastructure grant program was designed as a partnership between our administration and communities and as a direct response to the urgent requests we heard to move this important project forward,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “These towns are one-step closer to building the infrastructure that will deliver connectivity to the small business and students that need it.”
“Massachusetts businesses are part of a global economy, and they need access to broadband networks to find customers, provide services, and deliver products,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “Working with our municipal partners to build out high-speed internet access to formerly unserved areas will support our businesses and families, ensuring that there are opportunities for everyone to benefit from our economic growth. We remain committed to working with our leadership team to increase broadband access and internet connectivity.”
“These Last Mile Grants will help bring long-awaited service to communities in the region,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg. “With that service will come opportunities for social and economic development.”
Today’s awards are part of $20 million in capital funds made available directly to Last Mile towns. Under the program, unserved towns have the flexibility to pursue design, engineering, and construction solutions for a municipally-owned network directly. Since the launch of the program in March, 14 towns have submitted applications to the program.
In May 2016, the Baker-Polito Administration introduced a new Last Mile leadership team and a new framework to accelerate implementation of broadband projects in unserved or underserved communities through a more flexible, community-based approach. Since then, the Baker-Polito Administration has supported efforts to expand broadband coverage to nine partially served towns, and approved grants to bring service to seven unserved towns: Alford, Otis, Warwick, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, West Stockbridge, and Mount Washington. The Administration is also assisting numerous towns in the evaluation of public-private partnership proposals resulting from an RFP issued by the MBI late last year.