GOVERNOR PATRICK FILES $25 MILLION BROADBAND BOND BILL
New Broadband Institute will connect unserved communities by 2010
The legislation calls for the creation of a Massachusetts Broadband Institute within the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. The Institute will administer the new Broadband Incentive Fund, capitalized by general obligation bonds, to invest in publicly owned broadband infrastructure and partner with private firms to connect the Commonwealth's 32 unserved communities by 2010.
"Today's global economy requires that every corner of our Commonwealth be wired for the 21st Century," said Governor Patrick. "The digital divide that persists in too many Massachusetts communities has gone on for long enough. This bond bill begins the important work of bridging that divide so every student and every business can compete on a level playing field."
The new Broadband Institute will be led by a governing board consisting of key state policymakers and governor-appointed experts. The Institute will use the Broadband Incentive Fund to invest in fiber-optic cable, conduits, wireless towers, and other long-lived broadband infrastructure in unserved areas. These investments will make it more attractive and cost-effective for private companies to partner with the state to deliver complete broadband solutions for residents and businesses in the region.
"There's ample evidence that access to broadband triggers profound job creation and economic development opportunities," said Dan O'Connell, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. "The residents and businesses of unserved communities will realize a significant return on a very targeted and worthwhile investment and our state's entire economy will be that much stronger because of it."
The legislation empowers the board to work with state agencies, municipalities and private entities to devise an operating plan to remove roadblocks to service. Private partners will be selected through a competitive solicitation. The Institute will have the ability to work closely with both incumbent telecommunications and broadband providers and new market entrants.
The first priority for the Fund's investments will be unserved areas, where the need for broadband is most urgent. Thirty-two towns in Massachusetts currently have no broadband access whatsoever. An additional 63 communities are partially served, with broadband available only in certain areas of the community. All but one of the completely unserved communities, as well as many of the underserved ones, are located in Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties in Western Massachusetts.
"This is a huge step forward in our goal to get every community in the state connected to the whole wide world, starting with Western Massachusetts where broadband connectivity is severely lacking," said Senator Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).
"I share the Administration's enthusiasm for expanding broadband access to underserved and un-served communities throughout the state. This is a great opportunity for the state to empower and cultivate existing talent. Particularly for areas like western Massachusetts, this initiative begins to level the playing field for local students, residents, and businesses by opening the door to an enormous amount of information and resources. It is a great example of collaborative public policy development," said Representative Daniel E. Bosley, (D-North Adams).
"To be viable and competitive in the information age, we must commit to invest in the infrastructure needed to serve every student, every business, and every home in the Commonwealth. This legislation lays the foundation necessary to do just that. The effects of this effort will be felt throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in the western Massachusetts communities - many of which I represent - where the need is greatest," said Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D - Pittsfield).
"The Broadband Institute is tasked with developing public-private partnerships that will deliver the best results possible from the Commonwealth's strategic investment," said Sharon E. Gillett, Commissioner of the Department of Telecommunications and Cable. "The board will consider proposals spanning the full range of technologies and business models, including wired and wireless as well as regional and local solutions."
"With the establishment of the Broadband Institute, Massachusetts will lead the nation in recognizing the economic necessity of tackling broadband deficits, along with states like Vermont and California," said Director of Wireless and Broadband Affairs Stan McGee. "We need to make sure that all of our citizens can participate in today's global economy so that Massachusetts remains a place where people with ideas and initiative want to be. The Governor's broadband plan will help us do it."