The letter and accompanying resolution below has been sent to all town leaders. We urge you to meet with your Selectboard and urge them to consider passing the resolution.
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Dear Town Leader:
The years-long effort to bring broadband to unserved homes and businesses in western Mass. is at a critical juncture. To move this “last-mile” project forward, we are asking you to take action by passing the accompanying resolution supporting a regional solution for broadband and asserting the right of town officials to have a voice in the state’s decision-making on the network.
A regional solution is the most cost-effective and sustainable way to provide affordable broadband service in our towns, as a WiredWest analysis has demonstrated. For many towns, it is the only feasible way forward. Yet, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) has refused to recognize the right of towns to work together on a regional basis.
MBI is requiring each town to complete a Readiness Assessment process before it will survey utility poles in a town to determine their suitability for carrying additional fiber optic cables. As part of that process towns must choose a model for construction and operation of a fiber network. But MBI does not allow towns to propose or choose a regional model, only vaguely suggesting that such an “option may be available” at some indeterminate time in the future. However, without a regional model on the table now, many towns simply cannot proceed.
MBI is also in the process of issuing and evaluating Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) for the design and engineering of a fiber network, and for private sector providers to build, own, and operate last-mile infrastructure. Our towns have had no input into these RFP’s that do not require a comprehensive regional approach. Private providers, such as cable companies, are not required to serve all our citizens and may cherry-pick more densely populated and therefore more profitable areas.
The Municipal Modernization Act of 2016 was sponsored by the Baker Administration, which has actively encouraged regionalization of municipal services. It includes these provisions:
- Section 240 requires executive agencies to “evaluate all grant, loan, and technical assistance programs… for opportunities to promote, facilitate and implement intermunicipal cooperation, collaboration, and regional service delivery at the local level.”
- Section 241 requires that “where regionalization may be feasible” executive agencies “shall encourage municipal efficiencies by prioritizing those applications for funds which come from municipalities that have developed a method by which to jointly and more efficiently utilize such funding.”
MBI and the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), which oversees it, have ignored these provisions and failed to recognize the feasibility, indeed the necessity, of towns working together regionally to enable broadband. State law encourages the formation of Municipal Light Plant Cooperatives, such as WiredWest, by providing certain incentives for towns to participate in such an organization. Yet the MBI and EOHED refuse to recognize your cooperative as a legitimate “method” to implement regionalization and to “more efficiently utilize” funding for deploying broadband.
Moreover, with no town input, MBI issued a payment schedule for network construction that requires towns to provide 100% of their funding share up front. It also adopted a policy that towns would be responsible for cost over-runs on a construction project over which they would have no oversight. In fact, requiring towns to accept such liability well into the future is illegal.
To overcome these obstacles to a regional solution for broadband, it is critical that town officials speak up now. We urge you to consider and pass the accompanying resolution as soon as possible. A WiredWest representative will be glad to attend a meeting of your Select Board to address questions you may have on this request specifically or on the project in general.
After passage of the resolution, please send it to:
Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
One Ashburton Place, Room 2101
Boston, MA 02108
Deputy Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
One Ashburton Place, Room 2101
Boston, MA 02108
Special Advisor to the Secretary of EOHED & MBI Board Chair
Massachusetts Broadband Institute
75 North Drive
Westborough, MA 01581
We also encourage you to send a copy to your State Senator and State Representative. In addition, please provide a copy to WiredWest so that we may collect all the resolutions and make them available to the news media and other interested parties.
Lastly, WiredWest will be hosting a workshop on January 28th in Northampton where we will present our regional broadband solution to Select boards and other town officials. Save the date. Details to follow.
The WiredWest Executive Committee
Jim Drawe – Cummington (Chair)
Charley Rose – Worthington (Vice Chair)
Bob Labrie – Goshen (Treasurer & Outreach Committee Chair)
David Dvore – Rowe (Town Liaison)
MaryEllen Kennedy – New Salem (Clerk)
Jeremy Dunn – Becket (Vice Treasurer)
99 Main Street
Northampton, MA 01060
We the Select Board of the town of _____________ on this date __________________ do hereby declare and resolve that, in order to make affordable and sustainable broadband internet service universally available to homes and businesses in our town:
1. We need, we want, we will financially support and we will work with town and state officials to implement a regional “fiber-to-the-premises” solution for broadband;
2. We are entitled to implement such a regional solution through a Municipal Light Plant Cooperative in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts;
3. We urge the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) to comply with the regionalization policy and provisions of Section 240 and 241 of the Municipal Modernization Act of 2016;
4. We must have the opportunity, whether directly through our town officials or on our behalf through our MLP Cooperative WiredWest, for regular and substantive input into policy-making and decisions by MBI and EOHED regarding deployment of broadband;
5. We cannot overstate the importance of implementing a regional broadband solution as soon as possible, and demand that all involved parties to work together to achieve that goal.
Select Board Chair
Select Board Member
Select Board Member