In western Massachusetts, about 40 communities have spent nearly a decade trying to improve Internet service. Governor Baker recently took a step to help clear the way. He took $20 million out of the control of the struggling Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI).
Now, towns can apply for $20 million in infrastructure grants through the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development. MBI will now refocus on other projects, like managing its middle mile network and refining agreements with large cable companies.
The transition marks a change in state policy that many local communities have longed for because they've seen MBI as an obstacle, rather than an aid, to improving better connectivity.
Quick Turn Around for Grants
It’s a step in the right direction for towns that depend on slow DSL, expensive satellite, and even those that still use dial-up connections. Communities that belong to the WiredWest cooperative, which has been in negotiations with MBI for years on it business model, are especially glad to see the shift. In mid-March, local leaders and representatives from MBI and Housing & Economic Development met to discuss development of a new grant process.
After that meeting, a WiredWest representative from Plainfield, Massachusetts, Kimberly Longey, told the local newspaper Berkshire Eagle:
"What we really need is the ability to have self-determination in this process. … We're cautiously optimistic. We think this is a good step. I have a feeling that things are lining up."
The Recorder and MassLive recently revealed some of the details of this new grant process. Procedure will follow the proven model of the Housing & Economic Development’s MassWorks program, which provides funding for major infrastructure projects like sewer and water systems.
The process will have clear guidelines and expectations, and each town can expect its application to be reviewed two weeks after filing. Grant funding will be disbursed within 30 days of a... Read more