Notes From the Underserved

2017 New Years Message, Steps Forward from WiredWest

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.

Thank you,

Your WiredWest Team

Notes From the Underserved Archive

Top Stories

Berkshire towns welcome change in Massachusetts Broadband Institute policy

Reprinted from the Berkshire Eagle
By Larry Parnass, lparnass@berkshireeagle.com

“Productive.” “Optimistic.”

After a year in the deep freeze, relations between state officials and broadband activists in Western Massachusetts appear to be thawing.

Leaders of WiredWest used the words above to describe their meeting last week with Carolyn Kirk, the state’s deputy secretary of housing and economic development.

Their session in Northampton came 15 months after a Massachusetts Broadband Institute policy reversal halted earlier collaboration. The gulf opened after a former MBI executive director urged town leaders not to enter into a regional broadband network agreement with WiredWest, citing financial issues.

Since then, tension has characterized relations between WiredWest loyalists and the state.

Last week’s summit is believed to be the first since talks broke down in early 2016 — a crisis that led Gov. Charlie Baker to impose a “pause” in planning for last-mile broadband coverage in unserved communities.

Jim Drawe of Cummington, chairman of WiredWest’s executive committee, praised the March 9 meeting with Kirk and other state officials.

“It was very refreshing to work with her,” Drawe said of Kirk, calling the former Gloucester mayor “decisive” and supportive.

“We left the meeting with the clear and common goal to move forward as soon as possible,” Drawe said.

Kirk said Wednesday she accepted an invitation from Marilyn Wilson, a Rowe Select Board member and former WiredWest delegate, to meet.

“I felt like the time was right to have a roll-up-your sleeves, collaborative discussion with those in the room,” Kirk said. “The input I received was very helpful.”

Steve Nelson of Washington, a former WiredWest leader who is now his town’s delegate to the group, said the session with Kirk was significant.

“It’s more than a courtesy […]

Towns pleased with changes to state broadband funding

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 […]

Top Stories Archive

WiredWest: our cooperative solution for broadband internet in western Massachusetts

Get the Answers

Q. When will we actually get broadband?

Q. Will subscribers have to keep their Verizon phone service to get WiredWest’s broadband service?

Q. Who controls the subscriber rates?

Q: How does MBI play into this?

Learn the answers & more!

Meeting Information

WiredWest Board of Directors Meeting

October 16 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

WiredWest Board of Directors Meeting

November 13 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

WiredWest Board of Directors Meeting

December 11 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Working together to build a state-of-the-art fiber-optic network to serve everyone and drive regional economic growth, create jobs, improve education and healthcare, and ensure a sustainable future for our communities.