Thursday, July 23, 2009

Massachusetts Broadband Efforts

Last summer, the state established the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) with a $40 million state capital bond authorization to expand broadband throughout the state. This legislation was passed months before the Federal government made $7.2 billion available through ARRA for broadband deployment.

MBI’s action plan is to:

• Assess broadband conditions in communities with or no broadband
• Promote access for essential state and local governmental services, homes, and businesses
• Inventory state and local government services to see if they can contribute resources
• Work to secure federal broadband stimulus funding

MBI is looking for letters of support from fiber network build and design contractors, fiber network operators, and last mile providers. Providers will need to address requirements such as how they plan to provide service in underserved areas, types of customers to be targeted, types of technologies that network service providers will need to deploy for last mile services, pricing levels to offer, examine whether service provider partners are applying for ARRA funds in the regions, and look into any past experiences that service providers have had with similar projects.

The Massachusetts House and Senate passed a bill last week that will make changes in the way state agencies interact. The bill makes changes in defining the state’s ownership of fiber it leases and for any wireless spectrum it might lease for expanding broadband access. The legislation gives MBI access to conduits that are already being laid along I-91 by the Massachusetts Highway Department for its own communications needs.

According to Sharon Gillett, Director of MBI, the bill makes it easier for the MBI to take advantage of existing infrastructure and build-outs already under construction. “It allows us to work collaboratively with other agencies, and to use what already exists so we can work more rapidly. We have to be able to show that our plans can be substantially completed in two years and totally completed in three. In order to do that there has to be streamlining of the construction.”

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