Notes From the Underserved

Governor Baker and Administration Leaders, MBI, and the Western Mass Legislative Delegation Meet with Unserved Town Leaders

Notes from May 10, 2016 meeting between Governor Baker and invitees from Western Mass

ATTENDEES:

Baker Administration and state officials: Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, Secretary Jay Ash, Carolyn Kirk, (Deputy Secretary of Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development), Sean Cronin (Senior Deputy Commissioner of Division of Local Services [part of DOR]), Peter Larkin (MBI), Bill Ennen (MBI), Ed Donnelly (MBI), Linda Dunlavy (MBI).

Western Mass legislative delegation: Senator Stan Rosenberg, Senator Ben Downing, Rep. Steve Kulik, Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, and Rep. Paul Mark. Other delegation staffers were also in attendance.

Western Mass invitees: Toby Gould (Charlemont Select Board), Kimberly Longey (Plainfield), Charley Rose (Worthington Select Board), Michael DeChiara (Shutesbury Select Board),  Doug Tanner (Wendell Finance Committee), Steve Harris (Middlefield), Thomas Powers (Leverettnet), Joe Boudreau (Worthington Finance Committee).

SUMMARY:

The meeting was officially one hour, 10:00-11:00 am, at the State House in Boston. Governor Baker and Senator Rosenberg left at 11:00 am, but most of the attendees stayed for another hour of discussion.

Gov. Baker promised to get this project back on track; and has increased MBI’s team to include Peter Larkin and Bill Ennen to ideally better manage the project and expedite implementation of the newest emergency electrician plan. Larkin will report directly to Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Jay Ash. Ash was in attendance but did not speak. Ennen will shift from his current position at the Innovation Institute at Mass Technology Collaborative and will now report to Peter Larkin. Larkin presented a Powerpoint of Baker’s plan.

In the meeting, WiredWest representatives emphasized:

  1. town choice/self determination: we need to be treated with respect and as partners in designing the solutions for our region;
  2. fiber to the home is the best and only proven technological choice and best use of public resources: and the preferred choice for most towns;  
  3. regionalization offers strong advantages in economies and sustainability and enables a greater number of towns to afford a FTTH solution;
  4. the time to act is now: no more studies, no backsliding on issues that were discussed, examined and put to rest during the past 8 years.

TAKEAWAYS:

There were some potential yellow cards (not quite red flags), but substantial caution is warranted.

  • There is strong emphasis on private sector involvement (behemoth national corporations to sole proprietors are listed as potential partners). This is a catch 22: Private sector involvement means debt service payments will need to come from taxes and higher cost of service, putting towns at greater financial risk and for some towns putting their financing of fiber out of reach. But for towns without any broadband, there is also financial risk from of loss of tax base due to population decline and decreasing property values.
  • There is a range of project models offered, the closest to WiredWest is called “Multi-Municipal Network” . This is more of a consortium approach, incorporating outsourced operations and flexible withdrawal by towns with their physical broadband network assets. The Governor indicated he does not believe a grouping of 20 or 30 towns is practical and would be able to agree on critical decisions over time.  Despite WiredWest’s experience to the contrary, he is convinced that long-term cooperation among all the towns within the region would be difficult. He believes that smaller groupings of towns make sense, even though our region has had some different experiences, […]

Notes From the Underserved Archive

We can bring you broadband if we all pull together.

Top Stories

WiredWest Continues to Develop Plans as State Reviews Last Mile Broadband

WiredWest continues to actively develop its plans in coordination with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI). WiredWest will continue to push hard on behalf of and in concert with our towns and citizens for this desperately needed project to move forward. Every household, business, organization and town without access to high-speed Internet access is suffering today, Even when people were driving a car and tend to just listen to radio by cheap dvd player portable than knowing all the news and updates on the world wide web. Their solution is affordable and universally available broadband for our communities must remain a priority.

The WiredWest Negotiating Committee has worked successfully to build open lines of communication with the MBI over the last two months and have had numerous productive meetings. As the MBI works with the Baker administration, the WiredWest team continues the exhaustive due diligence process so we are all ready to move forward as soon as the pause has been lifted. WiredWest representatives remain in close contact with legislators and the MBI to monitor progress.

The Massachusetts Office of Administration & Finance is taking a close look at the $40 million last mile broadband allocation to ensure that state money is used wisely. We understand that the current “pause” is not related to WiredWest or on-going negotiations, but is a review of the entire last-mile project for all unserved towns. WiredWest welcomes the review as the Baker administration learns about the serious broadband access problem facing western Massachusetts and the responsible, local solution, supported by the taxpayers of WiredWest towns, and being developed by WiredWest and the MBI.

There is very strong local support, […]

Who Is Killing the Towns of Western Massachusetts?

by Susan Crawford. Reprinted from BackChannel. Read the original article.

It may be the governor. In the State House. With the lobbyists.

This is the story of a dramatic failure of imagination and vision at the state level: Governor Charlie Baker’s apparent insistence that Massachusetts relegate small towns to second-rate, high-priced, monopoly-controlled (and unregulated) communications capacity. It’s a slow-rolling tragedy that will blight Western MA for generations. The likely outcome: Only those plucky, scrappy towns that elect to build on their own will escape the grip of unconstrained pricing for awful service.

The rest will fade into irrelevance.

What new American generations will stay in a place that is essentially unconnected to the world? What new businesses and ways of making a living will emerge there? None and none.

Like a coroner doing advance work on an autopsy, let’s engage in some forensics. There’s a state agency in Massachusetts called MBI, or the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, charged with allocating $50 million in state bond funds to subsidize high-speed internet access connections to homes and businesses in rural areas of the Commonwealth. The towns have needed that access desperately for well over a decade.

That money has been hanging around since 2014, when the state legislature set it aside and asked the MBI bureaucracy to decide what to do with it. MBI determined that $40 million would go to 45 towns that had only dial-up or DSL services and $5 million would go to 9 additional towns that had some cable internet access service. (The remaining $5 million was apparently for overhead.)

For an agency that has produced virtually nothing so far, MBI is a high-priced operation. As far as I […]

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

September 18 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

WiredWest Executive Committee Meeting

October 2 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

WiredWest Board of Directors Meeting

October 16 @ 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.