With the start of the new year, we want to thank your supporters and share with you our new plans for moving forward in 2017.
As you may know, in late 2015 Governor Baker placed a ‘pause’ on all state Last Mile Broadband projects. In May 2016 the Baker Administration lifted the ‘pause’ and named a new team to lead the effort. Since that time, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI, the state agency charged with broadband development to unserved towns) has been working to build individual town-owned and run networks through a newly-created Town Readiness process.
Our original plan, which was supported by MBI when you signed up for service, called for the WiredWest cooperative to own and operate a regional network on behalf of our member towns. MBI has since changed its policy and now insists that each town own its network infrastructure individually.
Since our inception in 2010, our vision has always been to work together on a regional basis to provide a cost-effective and sustainable fiber optic network bringing affordable broadband service to everyone. To comply with MBI policy, WiredWest has developed a new Regional Broadband Solution that will link individual town networks into a regional one by partnering with an experienced broadband provider to deliver services, and to operate and maintain the network on a regional basis. Efficiencies of this network allow it to be operated with significant savings and with other advantages over independent town-run networks.
WiredWest is finalizing a plan with Town Delegates and will be holding a workshop for town leaders on January 28th at the JFK Middle School in Northampton (100 Bridge Street). We are excited to be presenting our plan for a regionally operated and affordable fiber-to-the-home network that will be available to all interested western Massachusetts towns.
In the meantime, we invite you to continue visiting our redesigned website for updates, news, analysis and information.
Your WiredWest Team
Reprinted from The Recorder
By DIANE BRONCACCIO , Recorder Staff
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Local officials say they hope the state’s revised broadband policy will break the gridlock on which the internet build-out for unserved towns has stalled over the last two years.
“This new grant program is a huge step forward for last-mile broadband,” said Bob Handsaker, co-chair of the Charlemont Broadband Committee. “It ensures that all of the currently allocated state funds are fully available to towns that want to build their own fiber-to-the-home networks. More importantly, each town can control how those funds are used, allowing the town to select their own partners, minimize risk and make the state funding stretch as far as possible,” said Handsaker.
The state designated $40 million for 41 towns with no access to high-speed internet service — a sum that would cover about a third of the costs of bringing broadband to homes and businesses in those towns. Roughly half of each town’s grant money was to be spent on construction, while the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) was to use the remaining allocation to design and engineer the network. Towns that wanted to build networks without engineering and design assistance from MBI would have been eligible only for the “construction” portion of the grant. But the change in the grant process, through the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), will allow towns to apply and receive their full allocation of the $40 million grant. Franklin County’s “unserved” towns eligible for part of this state grant money include: Ashfield, Charlemont, Colrain, Hawley, Heath, Leyden, Monroe, New Salem, Rowe, Shutesbury, Warwick and Wendell.
“The streamlined grant program … allows […]
By Larry Parnass, Reprinted from The Berkshire Eagle
WORTHINGTON — Broadband advocates from Berkshire County and beyond pressed Thursday for the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to free up funding, speed decision-making and support regional solutions to a problem they say impairs civic life.
Their sometimes sharply worded remarks took frequent aim at the MBI itself, saying the agency assigned the job of bringing broadband to dozens of unserved communities has too often changed its rules, frustrating dogged local efforts to end the digital dark ages.
“We’ve endured a constant state of flux,” said Howard Bronstein of Plainfield.
Peter Larkin, the MBI board chairman and former Pittsfield lawmaker, joined the institute’s deputy director, Edmund Donnelly, and field representative Bill Ennen at a head table.
For nearly two hours, they heard a litany of distress.
Among the toughest appraisals of the institute’s performance came from David Kulp of Ashfield, who leads that Franklin County town’s broadband committee.
“After nine years, it’s time that MBI acknowledge its failure, drops its paternalistic approach and simply grant money to the towns to get the job done,” Kulp said. “Let’s call a spade a spade.”
Other speakers echoed Kulp’s call for the agency to release to towns the millions of dollars categorized as “professional services” funding — and let towns apply that design and engineering money directly to the networks they seek to build.
“We welcome the criticism because it’s the only way it gets better,” Larkin told The Eagle after the meeting.
He said the institute and its board are reconsidering how to use money allocated for professional services. They will decide whether towns will get access to that funding directly, or receive the value only in the form […]
By JIM LEVULIS, WAMC – Original post on WAMC.org
Efforts to bring broadband internet to underserved areas of rural, western Massachusetts have been ongoing for more than a decade. Now the regional cooperative WiredWest has a new proposal. It comes after Governor Charlie Baker’s administration shook up and reviewed the efforts of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute.
WAMC spoke with Bob Labrie, a member of WiredWest’s executive committee, and Tim Newman, the group’s spokesman. Newman says the proposal calls for WiredWest to administer the regional internet network with private providers handling the operations.
The Massachusetts Broadband Institute did not respond to a request for comment on the plan.
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