In response to our lobbying effort, the State is now offering grants for the full amount of funds allocated, including the professional services portion that had previously been reserved for MBI, to towns wishing to manage building their own broadband networks. The grant process will be managed by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED). Grants will be processed as submitted on a rolling basis. They are attempting a two week turnaround once the application is complete. Though others may review, the decision to award rests solely with Sec. Jay Ash and Deputy Sec. Carolyn Kirk. The overall sequence looks like:

  • Application ( to start the process, go to Last Mile Infrastructure Grant Program )
  • Award notification
  • Pre-contract (MassWorks form –info derived from application and verified with applicant)
  • Contract (MassWorks form – standard in Massachusetts for towns who receive MassWorks grants)

The proposed disbursement schedule still under consideration is:

  • 100% of the “Professional Services” allocation upon execution of the contract
  • 60% of the “Construction” allocation upon submission of Licensee’s Pole Attachment Application
  • 35% of the “Construction” allocation upon signing of construction contract
  • 5% of the “Construction” allocation upon demonstration that at least 10 paying customers are receiving services
  • Funds are payments made to the town only – no exceptions

Bill Ennen’s advice about filling out the application:

  • The reviewers will need to specifically test whether applicants answered the questions in “Section II”.  It will be helpful if you follow that sequence specifically or if you can associate your answers directly with those questions as this will save time in the review process.  You are welcome to reference attachments in your answer as long as it will be relatively easy for the reviewer to find the referenced item.
  •  I welcome you to attach your “readiness” submission to application.
  • Awards will be made only to the town (not the MLP) so that last page needs to from the person in town who is authorized to submit on behalf of the town.
  • If I find gaps or missing elements I’ll be checking back with you.   I think it would be best if recipients contact me individually either via email or the phone – whatever works for you.

Our comments / suggestions about some of the application form questions.

This is a typical response: The project will make state-of-the-art fiber to the premise (FTTP) broadband access available to all premises on town-maintained roads. This technology is future proof and should serve the community for many decades to come. There is no known limit to the amount of bandwidth that can be put on fiber. The equipment will be capable of 1gbps, much higher than current needs, and can be upgraded when replaced if needed. Our current specs should budget allow are:

  • Fiber – Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) with dedicated strands (ie home runs) from the hub to each premise.
  • 100% premise passing to curb including seasonal properties. (MBI specs called for at least 96%)
  • drops to all premises that request it – may limit to pre-subscribers if necessary (your town’s policy may vary. If your budget is short, you might ask subscribers to pay something for their drops.)
  • Data and Voice service. 1Gbps will be available as an option. Starting tier of 25Mbps.
  • We will be part of the WiredWest regional network with connections to at least two different sources of bandwidth for reliability if possible. Redundancy with ERPS will provide fault tolerant operation.
  • Hut at (choose a place where your town has backup power available). Probably locate a stand-alone outside the building to provide access for repairs during non-business hours.
  • ONT’s will be indoor possibly with routers.
  • (The Town) will make our OSP “fiber rich” with the standard recommended percentage of spare fibers to be between 50% or more. Spare fibers will be dedicated for possible use by emergency services and future homes or subdivisions and regional connection.
We anticipate working with WG&E to manage the design and build process. We belong to the WiredWest MLP Coop and will operate the network as part of WiredWest’s regional operation plan. (Of course, your town may choose a different company to manage the build. We hope you’ll choose WiredWest to manage operations.)
WiredWest will hire service providers for the member towns, arrange for shared billing and expenses. This relieves the member towns from having to do this individually and provides convenience, economy of scale, talent and risk pooling, etc. See the website for details.
This depends on your town. Internet MLP’s are not regulated, so there is no hard requirement, however EOHED will be looking for a reasonable strategy. Note that the amount spent on professional services and make ready do not need to be part of the capital replacement plan. Equipment, which is usually 10%-20% of the cost of the network should be on a 7-10 replacement cycle. The fiber itself should last 50 years. It’s debatable what is really needed and what will be accepted.
Here you can put anything you think may be a challenge. Since it is very difficult to know in advance what make-ready cost will be, getting through make-ready within budget could be a challenge.
Section 3.1 Grant Request should be pre-filled with the full amount of your last mile allocation. The other funding sources will depend on each town. See advice about financing your last mile project.
From Bill Ennen, “An example of pending would be your projected state award – you are applying for it with expectations that you’ll get the award, but it is not certain. Secured would be if you had set aside cash – some towns have put cash aside in protected accounts in anticipation of early costs. In other words secured is money that is certain and pending is money you hope/intend to bring to the project through borrowing, free cash, the state grant or whatever.”
WG&E, or whoever you are considering to manage your network build process, should be able to estimate a schedule. EOHED will be looking to see if the schedule seems realistic, so it’s better to err on the conservative side. Make-ready starts after the pole survey is complete. Allow at least 9 months from start for Make-ready. Construction starts after make-ready is complete. The whole process should be possible in 2 years, if not sooner, depending on the size of your town and how many towns are ahead of you in the queue.