GOVERNOR PATRICK FILES BROADBAND LEGISLATION TO PREPARE THE COMMONWEALTH FOR ACCESS TO FEDERAL STIMULUS FUNDS
Bill to Ensure Massachusetts Captures Funding Opportunities
"This bill builds on our commitment to provide broadband access to all areas of the Commonwealth, and positions the state for long-term economic growth," said Governor Patrick. "This effort will also help streamline state zoning and permitting rules to expedite the availability of this enabling technology."
Many of the provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act include "use it or lose it" deadlines that require states to use federal funds quickly or the funding will be reallocated to other states. Changes to current state law are necessary to meet these deadlines and other ARRA requirements. This bill proposes changes that will ensure that the Commonwealth takes full advantage of ARRA funding for deployment of broadband infrastructure.
Specifically, the measure:
- Authorizes the Massachusetts Broadband Institute ("MBI") to use funding to acquire indefeasible rights of use and federal-government (FCC) spectrum;
- Clarifies that petitions relative to the zoning of a communications or cable facility will be reviewed by the Department of Telecommunications and Cable and petitions relative to all other types of public service facilities will be reviewed by the Department of Public Utilities - consistent with the 2007 reorganization of the Department of Telecommunications and Energy;
- Clarifies that the MBI may be exempt from local zoning by-laws or ordinances so long as the MBI is acting within the confines of its essential government function for the public good; and
- Authorizes MassHighway to enter into long-term leases with the MBI so that fiber and conduit can be deployed along certain existing right-of-ways in parallel with certain MassHighway construction projects.
"These changes will not only allow us to better compete for federal broadband funding, but will complement Governor Patrick's efforts at the state level to bring affordable, robust and ubiquitous broadband and advanced telecommunication services throughout the Commonwealth, specifically to western Massachusetts where the digital divide is most acute, and will enable continued improvements in our local and regional economies, healthcare, public safety and education," said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Gregory Bialecki.
Investments in broadband are critical components to Governor Patrick's Massachusetts Recovery Plan, which combines state, federal and, where possible, private efforts to provide immediate and long-term relief and position the Commonwealth for recovery in the following ways:
- Deliver immediate relief by investing in the road, bridge and rail projects that put people to work today and providing safety net services that sustain people who are especially vulnerable during an economic crisis;
- Build a better tomorrow through education and infrastructure investments that strengthen our economic competitiveness, prepare workers for the jobs of the future and support clean energy, broadband and technology projects that cut costs while growing the economy; and
- Reform state government by eliminating the pension and ethics loopholes that discredit the work of government and revitalize the transportation networks that have suffered from decades of neglect and inaction.