For Immediate Release - November 08, 2011

Patrick-Murray Administration Hosts Broadband Conference to Explore Future of Internet Access in Massachusetts

BOSTON – Tuesday, November 8, 2011 – The Patrick-Murray Administration's Department of Telecommunications and Cable today hosted the Massachusetts Broadband Conference, to examine the future of broadband expansion in Massachusetts. Governor Deval Patrick has made broadband expansion a priority, working with the Legislature to create the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and kicking-off "MassBroadband 123" this past July, to expand access to more than 120 communities in western and north central Massachusetts.  

“Reliable, affordable Internet access to all areas of the Commonwealth is vital to our economic recovery and our future,” said Governor Patrick, who addressed the conference. “My thanks to everyone who is helping us create an affordable and reliable broadband network for Massachusetts.” 

The conference, co-hosted by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School, brings together government officials and industry experts to discuss the future of broadband access, which is undergoing rapid change on the state and federal level.

In July, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and Governor Patrick launched the construction of the MassBroadband 123 fiber-optic network. The 1,300-mile Internet backbone network will expand broadband access to more than 120 communities in western and north central Massachusetts, and provide direct connections to more than 1,300 schools, hospitals, libraries and public safety facilities that currently lack reliable, affordable Internet service.

Extending broadband connectivity is a priority for Governor Patrick, who introduced and signed legislation to create the MBI, a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, providing state capital funding for broadband-related infrastructure projects. These resources, combined with an effective partnership with the Obama Administration and the Massachusetts congressional delegation, helped the MBI secure multiple federal grants worth more than $80 million, including a $45.4 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act award through the highly-competitive National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). 

“The MBI is bringing quality, affordable broadband access that will ensure that residents, businesses and community institutions have the tools they need to compete and thrive in the 21st century economy,” said MBI Director Judy Dumont. “The FCC’s efforts to reform the Universal Service Fund is a critical step, as we continue to make great progress to close the digital divide and connect the unconnected.” 

Along with comments from Governor Patrick and a keynote address from Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, titled “Transitioning Universal Service from Phone to Broadband,” two panels participated in the conference. The first panel, moderated by Department of Telecommunications and Cable Commissioner Geoffrey Why, with panelists Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments; Bill Oates, the Chief Information Officer for the City of Boston; and Mark Reilly, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for Comcast, focused on sustainable broadband adoption. The second panel, moderated by Sen. Benjamin Downing, with panelists Judy Dumont, Director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, Emily Green, the Chairman of the Board of Yankee Group; and New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission Commissioner Amy Ignatius, discussed the economic benefits of connectivity. 

In October, the FCC released an executive summary of an expected order that will change the focus of the Universal Service Fund. Currently, the Fund directs money to telephone landline service access to underserved areas. However, as technology changes, the infrastructure needs have changed from phone lines to broadband. The Order is expected to create a forward-looking model that will support more broadband coverage. 

”The FCC’s reform of the Universal Service Fund is an important step in ensuring that reliable, affordable broadband is built out in a way that is both more efficient and equitable”, said Commissioner Why. 

Along with the Department of Telecommunications and Cable and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy, the Conference was supported by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, the Boston Bar Association, the Federal Communications Bar Association, and the New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners.

“The expansion of broadband connectivity will strengthen our innovation economy and support job growth across the Commonwealth,” said Pamela Goldberg, CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “MBI is building a sustainable fiber-optic network that will attract private investment and create long-term economic opportunities throughout Massachusetts.” 

The Patrick-Murray Administration’s Department of Telecommunications and Cable regulates the telecommunications and cable industries, promotes competition, and protects consumers’ interests. The Department is part of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, which can be found at its website, blog, and on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.