For Immediate Release - June 27, 2017

Baker-Polito Administration Continues Efforts to Close Connectivity Gap in Last Mile Communities

Lieutenant Governor’s visit highlights ongoing efforts to close connectivity gap in thirteen towns throughout Western Massachusetts

Shutesbury, Rowe, Ashfield – Wednesday, June 27 – Today Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and state officials joined residents and local officials in Western Massachusetts to discuss the state’s ongoing efforts to bring high-speed, broadband service to unserved towns. The Baker-Polito Administration convened roundtable discussions hosted by Shutesbury, Rowe and Ashfield, with participation from the towns of Colrain, Leyden, New Salem, Wendell, Charlemont, Heath, Cummington, Plainfield, Windsor and Chesterfield. 

These roundtables are part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s commitment to accelerating the pace of projects that will close the broadband connectivity gap in towns across the Commonwealth. The participating thirteen towns recently received grants under the administration’s new framework totaling $11.1 million to expedite municipal efforts to directly pursue design, engineering, and construction solutions for municipally-owned networks.

“Our administration is committed to closing the gap for our residents and small businesses without reliable high-speed broadband access,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “I applaud the progress of our Last Mile leadership team, and am confident in their ability to meet the urgent needs of our communities to break down barriers to growth and broadband connectivity.”

“By building strong partnerships with our municipalities and creating flexible resources like the Last Mile framework, we can more effectively meet the unique needs of our cities and towns to serve their residents and promote economic growth,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.

“We are eager to solicit feedback from our communities on the progress this new Last Mile framework has made, and how we can continue to work closely with our local partners to ensure a timely close to the connectivity gap,” said Deputy Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Carolyn Kirk. “These ongoing efforts are reflective of our belief that communities understand their needs best, and our role as partners is to provide the resources and technical assistance necessary to match those needs.”

“We’re beginning to see the results of the hard work that was done over the past year to move towns forward, including the municipal projects that were represented at today’s forums,” stated Peter Larkin, Board Chair of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and Special Advisor to the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the Last Mile project. “Between these direct municipal grants and the MBI’s partnerships with private providers to construct networks, we’re finally seeing homes connected and communities edging closer toward completion. That progress is a testament to the personal commitment by Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito to see this project through.”

“The sooner we have universal broadband availability in all our communities, the better. Both residents and businesses are struggling, and we can’t rest until the job is done.” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg

“I fully endorse the Administration’s efforts to engage our smallest western Mass. communities as they face making important decisions on Last Mile connectivity,” said State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield).  “Lt. Gov. Polito’s visit to Franklin County today is welcome and will be much appreciated by residents and businesses who have waited long enough for reliable, affordable and accessible broadband service.”

"Great progress has been made in recent months in more than a dozen small communities in western Massachusetts to finalize plans for the design and construction of last-mile broadband networks,” said Representative Stephen Kulik. “I am especially pleased that Ashfield and Shutesbury are among the first towns to receive contracts for state funds, and I applaud the hard work of local officials and broadband committees to make this happen.  The commitment made by the Baker-Polito Administration to partnering with the towns is much appreciated by me and the people I represent who must have high-speed broadband to ensure a brighter future in their communities."

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 through a more flexible, community-based approach. Over the past year, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and Baker-Polito Administration have helped 41 towns move projects forward, through partnerships with private providers, Last Mile grants to towns or considerations of options to bring broadband access to their community.

In May, the Administration announced $11.4 million in grants to support municipal broadband projects across Western Massachusetts. In the past twelve months, the MBI announced a grant to expand coverage to nine partially served towns; supported town-run projects in Alford, Otis, Warwick, and Mount Washington; and has assisted numerous towns in the evaluation of public-private partnership proposals resulting from an RFP issued late last year.