Friday, August 14, 2009

Massachusetts to Apply for $100 million for Western Mass. Middle Mile Project

Office of Governor Deval Patrick via 08/14/09 Continuing the Patrick Administration’s commitment to bring affordable, reliable broadband to all citizens of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), is submitting proposals this week for a total of $105 million in federal stimulus funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The funding request is divided into two proposals—a request for $100 million for broadband infrastructure in western Massachusetts is being sent to the federal Broadband Initiatives Program, Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, and a request for $5 million for statewide broadband mapping is being sent to the State Broadband Data and Development Program.
The Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to compete for these federal stimulus dollars, which will allow us to empower the students and businesses in western Massachusetts with the tools they need to succeed,” said Governor Patrick. “This project is key to maximizing job, business, and educational opportunities through the promise of ubiquitous broadband access in western Massachusetts.
In the $100 million application, the MBI proposes to build broadband fiber infrastructure totaling $125 million that will provide citizens of the 43 unserved and underserved communities of western Massachusetts with world-class, future-proof broadband Internet access (download: Map).

Specifically, the MBI proposes to build a fiber “middle mile” network throughout the western region of the state that, in addition to bringing broadband access to these communities, would provide direct connection to regional anchor institutions and critical community facilities. The project, which would create up to 3,040 jobs, would be developed in collaboration and partnership with other state and local government entities, non-profits, and for-profit companies.

“This project has great potential to bring broadband access equity to western Massachusetts,” said MBI Director Sharon Gillett. “Under Governor Patrick’s strong leadership, and working closely with the Congressional delegation, state legislators, and our partners in the public and private sectors, we are already making great strides. This project is a vital part of our plan to create economic opportunities and lead to improvements in the areas of public safety, education, health care, and other vital services through broadband expansion.”

Within each community, interconnection will be made available at cost to private or non-profit Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that will enter into contractual relationships with the MBI to provide “last-mile access” to the public Internet for residents, businesses, and local community anchor institutions including schools, libraries, police stations, and town hall facilities.

The project area covers 1,591 square miles, roughly one-third of the Commonwealth, and would bring new broadband access to 20,337 households and 5,750 businesses. Numerous anchor institutions, public safety entities, and critical community organizations in the region have expressed interest in being involved with the project and being connected to the network that the MBI proposes to build.

The fiber-optic network would build on a recently announced $4.3 million, 55-mile segment of MBI fiber being deployed along the Interstate 91 corridor in western Massachusetts. This partnership with the Massachusetts Highway Department constitutes a “match” from Massachusetts towards the federal funding proposal.

The additional $5 million request for funding would go towards a statewide broadband mapping project. Earlier this year, Governor Patrick voiced his support for the proposal by designating the MBI as the eligible entity in the Commonwealth to receive federal stimulus funding for broadband mapping.

All federal broadband stimulus funding will be awarded based upon a competitive review and scoring process. August 14 is the deadline for submission of competitive grant applications across the nation. Two additional federal broadband stimulus grant funding rounds will be held in 2010. The MBI expects to learn about its round one federal award funding for broadband in November 2009.
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