Baker-Polito Administration Awards $6.8 Million for “Last Mile” Broadband Connectivity
Flexible grants will accelerate the construction of municipally-owned broadband networks in 7 more rural communities
Boston – May 24, 2017– Today the Baker-Polito Administration announced $6.8 million in Last Mile Infrastructure Grant Program awards designed to speed the deployment of broadband internet networks in unserved communities in Western and Central Massachusetts communities.
Towns receiving grants in this round are: Charlemont, $960,000; Colrain, $1.3 million; Cummington, $840,000; Heath, $820,000; New Salem, $750,000; Otis, $1.7 million and Rowe, $440,000. The Last Mile grants will allow municipalities to design, engineer and construct municipally owned broadband networks in each community.
“The Last Mile program is a critical tool that is bringing many communities in Western Massachusetts into the 21st Century,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Today’s awards will provide critical support for another seven communities to increase their connectivity and build infrastructure that will spur economic development, connect customers and expand access to residents.”
“The Last Mile program is a great example of state government and local communities working collaboratively to help our communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We have been fortunate to visit with small business owners in rural towns that are now pursuing a high-speed internet access to improve their business functions, customer satisfaction and quality of life all because of the Last Mile Program.”
“High-speed internet access is integral to operating a business in today’s competitive, global economy where transactions often occur online. We are committed to working with every Last Mile town that wants to pursue high-speed internet access to create new opportunities,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash.”
Last week, the Governor and Lt. Governor visited West Stockbridge and toured downtown, speaking to small business owners who said they benefited from the state’s investment in the Last Mile of broadband connectivity.
The Last Mile Infrastructure Grant Program will disburse to the towns both their municipal construction and professional services allocations – amounts formulated under the Last Mile program managed by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) at MassTech. Local professional services funds were reserved for the design and engineering of local networks, and were previously held back and expended directly by MBI, on behalf of unserved communities. Under the new grant program, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) will combine these two allocations into a single award, giving Last Mile towns the flexibility to pursue engineering, design and construction solutions for municipally-owned networks directly, as they would with other local infrastructure projects.
This is the second group of towns to receive grants under this program, which awarded $4.6 million in grants to the towns of Ashfield, Leyden, Mt. Washington, Plainfield, Shutesbury, and Windsor in early May. The program is modeled on EOHED’s successful MassWorks Infrastructure Program, a flexible, competitive grant program that funds local infrastructure projects that unlock economic growth. In addition, EOHED and the MBI will continue to assist municipalities that wish to partner with private broadband providers, or explore alternative technologies. MBI will continue to provide design and engineering services to communities that prefer to work with the organization.
The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to significantly increasing broadband access under the Last Mile Broadband project. In May 2016, the Baker-Polito Administration introduced a new Last Mile leadership team, and a new framework to accelerate implementation of broadband projects in unserved or underserved communities by empowering local partners through a more flexible, community-based approach. Since last May, the Baker-Polito Administration has supported efforts to expand broadband coverage to nine partially served towns, advanced a wireless pilot program in Middlefield, and approved grants to bring service to unserved towns such as: Alford, Otis, Warwick, and Mount Washington. The Administration is currently assisting several towns in evaluating potential public-private partnership proposals, resulting from an RFP issued late last year.