Baker-Polito Administration Awards $4.5 Million for “Last Mile” Broadband Connectivity
Flexible grants will accelerate the construction of municipally-owned broadband networks in five additional rural communities
Boston – June 26, 2017 – Today the Baker-Polito Administration announced $4.5 million in Last Mile Infrastructure Grant Program awards designed to spur the implementation of broadband internet networks in unserved communities in Western and Central Massachusetts.
“These awards directly support the efforts of our municipal partners to put in place the infrastructure needed to close the broadband connectivity gap in communities across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Ensuring our students, residents and businesses have access to high-speed, broadband internet is vital in today’s economy as we continue to work with municipalities to rapidly implement these last mile projects.”
Towns receiving grants include: Becket, $2.1 million; Chesterfield, $890,000; New Ashford, $280,000; Washington, $490,000; and Wendell, $730,000. The Last Mile grants will allow municipalities to design, engineer and construct municipally owned broadband networks in each community. This is the third round of towns to receive grants under this program. The Baker-Polito Administration previously awarded a total of $11.4 million to 13 communities. With today’s announcement, a total of 18 towns, representing over 10,000 homes and businesses have received funding through this program.
“Our administration is eager to collaborate with communities on how best to foster a shared vision for the future and execute on their goals,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “This is a central principle that has driven strategies like the Last Mile Infrastructure Grant program and the Community Compact program to give communities the necessary tools to pursue opportunities for economic and community development.”
“Businesses demand high-speed, reliable broadband internet to thrive in today’s age of technology and connectivity, and our administration is committed to nurturing businesses of every size in Massachusetts,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash. “The funding we’ve awarded through the Last Mile Infrastructure Grant program represents over 10,000 homes and businesses, making a significant impact on the ability of residents to connect, innovate and create.”
“Our small towns need broadband access now. I’m very pleased to see these Last Mile grants being awarded today,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg. “Businesses and individuals with high-speed, reliable internet access will strengthen the economy of the entire Commonwealth.”
“The communities of Becket, Chesterfield, New Ashford and Washington are more than ready to implement their chosen Last Mile solution and I am excited to watch their progress,” said State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield). “Reliable, accessible and affordable broadband is necessary to engage in nearly all aspects of modern life today, and I appreciate the Administration’s commitment to working with the Commonwealth’s smallest towns to help them make the right choices to ensure service for their residents.”
"I am very pleased that additional last-mile broadband grants are being expeditiously approved and awarded to these small communities,” said Representative Stephen Kulik, First Franklin District. “Massachusetts is now moving forward in a strong partnership between state and town governments to bring economic and social opportunities to our rural communities with the construction of high speed broadband networks. My congratulations to Chesterfield and the other towns receiving these grants today."
“Broadband internet will be a complete game-changer for Becket and Washington,” said Representative Smitty Pignatelli. “I’m thrilled that the Commonwealth is supporting them in this critical piece of economic development.”
The Last Mile Infrastructure Grant Program now awards towns funding for both municipal construction and professional services, allocations formulated under the Last Mile Program managed by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) at MassTech. Previously, local professional services funds were reserved for the design and engineering of local networks, and were 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.
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.