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Baker-Polito Team Delivers Results On Broadband Access For Western MA

Sep 02, 2018 07:05AM ● By Theresa Gilman

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito

(Editor's Note: the following information was provided by the office of the Baker-Polito Administration.) 

ALLSTON -- Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito this morning reviewed progress on their Administration's continued work and investments to deliver access to high-speed internet for Western Massachusetts communities. Since taking office, the Administration has committed millions of dollars in funding for the Last Mile program, which had previously failed to deliver results for communities that desperately needed this crucial infrastructure. By revamping the program and collaborating with local officials and the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), the initiative is finally making significant progress for communities who had been previously left behind in this critical area.
 
Baker Polito Administration Revamps Broadband Initiative To Deliver Results
Governor Baker's 2017 State Of The Commonwealth: “We all know that High-speed internet has become central to the ways we communicate, learn and do business. But too many communities in Western Mass still don’t have access to this essential service. That’s why this past May we completely overhauled the Last Mile program for our rural communities. We started with 53 towns lacking high speed internet access. And while there’s still more work to be done, in just six months we’ve moved a dozen towns forward. That’s more progress on local broadband access than in the last five years." (Source)

CommonWealth: Baker-Polito Administration's Approach & Investment "Reboots" Broadband Initiative, Which Had Stalled:  "Larkin says the state, through the Broadband Institute...is stepping in to provide an additional $45 million—$40 million for towns with no high-speed service and $5 million to complete the job in 10 communities deemed 'underserved.' The money has rebooted the interest in the program. He says high-speed internet—defined by the FCC as 25 megabytes per second download speed and 3 megabytes per second upload speed—is not a luxury just for the well-heeled, justifying the investment by the state." (Jack Sullivan, "The toughest mile," 
CommonWealth, 10/10/16)

$45 Million Investment In Broadband Infrastructure: "Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bond bill on Tuesday that will authorize the state to spend another $45 million on broadband projects in Western Massachusetts.
...
"Massachusetts has been working for years on the Last Mile project, to bring high-speed internet to rural communities in Western Massachusetts that do not have it. Typically, these communities are so spread out that it is not economically profitable for an internet company to build the infrastructure needed to provide service. The state money is used as an incentive to make it worthwhile for companies and municipalities to build out internet infrastructure." 
(Shira Schoenberg, "Gov. Charlie Baker signs bond bill authorizing $45 million for Western Massachusetts broadband," 
Springfield Republican, 11/21/17)

Major Turnaround Since 2015: When the Baker-Polito Administration took office, nearly 50 communities did not have access to high-speed internet. Through the Administration's work to facilitate planning and ensure access to resources and infrastructure, that number has dropped significantly: 
  • February 2015: "Currently, there are 44 communities, mostly in rural parts of Western Massachusetts, where residents and businesses do not have high-speed internet, but rely on slower technologies like dial-up." (Source)
  • November 2017: "The bill includes $32 million that will be available as potential match money for the 10 remaining communities that have not yet figured out how to implement broadband." (Source)
Commitment To Broadband Builds On Administration's Effort To Support All Of MA's Communities: "Lt. Gov. Polito said she makes it a point to visit all 351 cities and towns that make up Massachusetts and work to help them better their communities. She said she is working with Gov. Baker to bring a broadband connection to the smaller communities across the state." (Source)

Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D) Praises Administration's Broadband Efforts: "Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said he was pleased Baker addressed broadband. Pignatelli said he was worried when the Baker administration paused its work on improving broadband internet access in Western Massachusetts a couple of years ago to reevaluate the program. 'But I gave him benefit of the doubt, and we have a better product today because of that pause,' Pignatelli said.' (Shira Schoenberg, "WMass lawmakers praise Gov. Charlie Baker for addressing broadband, opioids," 
Springfield Republican, 1/23/18)

Congressman Richard Neal (D): "Neal also applauds Baker’s efforts to extend broadband internet service to western Massachusetts. 'When I call him, he calls back,' Neal says. 'He is mindful that he can’t be just Boston-centric.'" (Shawn Zeller, "All quiet for Baker on the DC front,"
CommonWealth, 10/10/17)

Local Business Owners Praise Administration's Progress: "Joseph P. Roy, of The Floor Store, called the new access to broadband internet 'a really amazing thing,' saying it has transformed West Stockbridge and helped his business meet with and correspond with clients via the internet, particularly those who own second homes in the Berkshires.

"'We would normally never be able to do what most businesses today take for granted,' he told the governor." 
(Shannon Young, "Gov. Charlie Baker tours Berkshire County small businesses benefitting from new broadband access," 
Springfield Republican, 5/16/17)
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