Sixteen towns have passed bond authorization votes so far, totalling $26 million, which would qualify towns participating in a regional network to an additional $14 million in state funding through the Massachusetts Broadband Institute.

Bond authorization votes require a 2/3rds majority to pass. The 16 towns that have passed it, have recorded votes well above that threshold, including two unanimous meeting votes in West Stockbridge and Rowe. Towns have until June of 2016 to vote on bond authorizations, and it’s expected that at least 10 more towns will vote, many in the coming weeks and months.

At this point, the project has enough critical mass to move forward with the planning work required (i.e., engineering, utility pole permitting). That work will be done in partnership with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI). WiredWest is currently meeting weekly with MBI on these and other critical network planning issues.

To ensure financial sustainability of the network, each town is required to get to a minimum of 40% of town premises pre-subscribing to services on the network. Right now, WiredWest has almost 6,000 deposits for service, which you can see here. Nine towns are over the 40% minimum, with several towns over 50%. And a number of towns only a few subscribers away from 40%.

Broadband leaders across the country are weighing in on the tremendous achievement of WiredWest towns.  Blair Levin, Executive Director of Gig.U, and former Executive Director of the National Broadband Plan, commented recently to Communications Daily, that, “This country was founded on communities in New England helping themselves instead of relying on others to fix their problems. So it’s good to see municipalities, such as the more than 40 that originally banded together to form WiredWest, going back to those roots and joining together to obtain universal access. While no one was clear what the right path would be a few years ago when states and municipalities began talking about building out their own fiber networks, there have been some experiments and things are beginning to shake out. Rural areas have difficult economics, but as we’ve seen with the Gig.U efforts, the barrier ultimately is not economics, the barrier ultimately is organization – if you organize your community to have a next generation network, you’ll get one. I think what they’re doing in Western Massachusetts is a really great experiment, and if it works, a lot of areas ought to seriously consider doing the same thing.”

Citizens and businesses in WiredWest towns are also speaking up about the issues of living without broadband — and the  life-changing impact this network would bring to them. You can read personal stories from residents of the town of New Salem here. Additionally, a New Marlborough mother of three recently made a compelling case for the WiredWest network based on educational needs of our region.

Ultimately, the overwhelming votes so far are a resounding affirmation that the citizens, businesses and institutions of Western Mass towns are ready, willing and eager to move forward with the WiredWest regional fiber network. Stay tuned for updates!