Friday, November 6, 2009

Broadband Mapping: Massachusetts Wins $2 Million in Federal Stimulus Funding for Broadband Data Development & Mapping

Governor Patrick Successfully Works the Real Massachusetts Network: The Boston - DC Telecom Policy Players 11/06/09 Boston
- Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) today announced that Massachusetts has won approximately $2 million in federal stimulus funding to aid in the development of broadband data requisition and mapping across the 351 communities of his state.

Today's award follows by one day Patrick's meeting with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke (left) during which the Governor directly lobbied the Secretary for the Bay State's priority projects for broadband stimulus funding.

One can not understand the continuing success of Patrick's state broadband program without understanding how the Governor successfully works the infrastructure of telecom policy players now ensconced in Washington, and the telecom policy - political connections between Boston and Washington. It is no wonder his Administration's focus on broadband deployment for unserved areas of the state presaged the Obama Administration's broadband stimulus program, as both programs share some of the same architects.

Today's announcement of nearly $2 million in NTIA broadband mapping funds for the Bay State is only the opening round in what we confidently predict will be Patrick's home run in this same political - policy agenda: Securing of over $100 million in Round I broadband stimulus funds for 3 priority projects of his Administration, the projects he lobbied Secretary Locke for.

The Massachusetts Broadband Data & Development Award
The $2 million awarded today to Massachusetts will help the state prepare for additional federal funding to build new broadband infrastructure that will bring high-speed Internet, or broadband, access to tens of thousands of households, businesses and community anchor institutions throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – including the unserved and underserved communities of western Massachusetts and Cape Cod.

“We are grateful to the Obama Administration and our Congressional delegation for this investment that moves us another step closer to bringing broadband access to all businesses, schools and communities in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Patrick in a press release issued today by his office at the Massachusetts State House on Boston's Beacon Hill.

As we have previously reported, the issue of broadband deployment in the underserved and unserved areas of western Massachusetts is a political and policy priority of Patrick, who is seeking reelection to his second term in 2010.

“Broadband access is an essential element of economic success in the 21st century, and we look forward to putting these funds to work immediately,” concluded Patrick.

Governor Patrick has designated the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), to lead the state’s efforts to increase broadband deployment. MTC, a quasi-public economic development authority of the Commonwealth, was chartered by the Massachusetts Legislature as the Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation in 1982, at the urging of the Governor Edward J. King .

In August of this year, the state acting through MTC applied for more than $100 million in federal stimulus funding, which was divided into two proposals focused on mapping and infrastructure development in western Massachusetts.

Patrick Works Mass - DC Telecom Policy Connections
Patrick, who successfully established MBI via legislative action in 2007, appointed Ms. Sharon E. Gillett as his first Executive Director of MBI in late April of this year. Gillett, who along with Assistant Economic Affairs Secretary Stanley McGee had been Patrick's point person on broadband deployment issues, was only in the MBI for 3 months. In July, as we reported at the time, she was appointed Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July, by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

“Too many Massachusetts communities are underserved when it comes to broadband access and some, such as Wendell and Monterey in western Massachusetts, have no access at all. Communities on one side of the state should be able to benefit from broadband the same way as communities on the other side of the state, and that’s why my colleagues in Congress and I have pushed so hard for this funding. I’m grateful to the Commerce Department for helping us to continue deploying broadband to as many people as quickly as possible,” said U.S. Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA).

Kerry is the Chairman of the Communications, Technology and Internet Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The Subcommittee has direct Senate oversight of the broadband stimulus program, and the entire telecommunications reform agenda of the Obama Administration.

Senator Kerry's younger brother Cameron F. "Cam" Kerry (above) was appointed by President Obama as General Counsel of the Department of Commerce in May of this year, where he serves as Locke's lead attorney. Cam Kerry, who has helped manage each of the Senator's campaigns, has spent most of his professional career as a telecommunications attorney representing the competitive non-Bell side of the sector, typically on behalf of cable operators and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs).

“Guaranteeing affordable, dependable broadband throughout the Commonwealth is a question of basic fairness,” said U.S. Senator Paul G. Kirk, Jr. (D-MA) in the press release from Patrick's office announcing the broadband mapping award by Commerce.

“Access to high-speed Internet is an absolute necessity for educational and business development in today’s global marketplace. This grant is a good first step to enable families, schools and businesses in communities throughout the state to gain access to the high-speed broadband they need,” concluded Kirk, who was appointed to the Senate by Patrick on September 24 to fill the seat of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) who passed away on August 25th.

“Success in the fiercely competitive global economy depends on our overarching telecommunications policy goals, including a competitive, high speed broadband infrastructure,” said Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA-7).

“A broadband network will spur new growth, investment, choice and greater affordability in cutting-edge broadband applications, services and technologies. As the author of the Recovery Act provision funding the expansion of broadband deployment, I am pleased that Massachusetts will get federal funds to help our state plan for the deployment of new broadband infrastructure that will expand broadband access to households and businesses in unserved and underserved communities.”

The NTIA has awarded the MBI over $1.5 million to collect and verify the availability, speed and location of broadband across the Commonwealth. This activity is to be conducted on a semi-annual basis between 2009 and 2011, with the data to be presented in a clear and accessible format to the public, government and the research community. In addition, WesternMA Connect, Inc., the combined entity of formerly Berkshire Connect, Inc. and Pioneer Valley Connect, will receive $500,000 for the cost of broadband planning activities in Massachusetts over five years, bringing the Commonwealth’s mapping grant award total to approximately $2 million.

In May 2009, Governor Patrick unveiled a new interactive mapping tool using Google mapping technology that enables users to pinpoint the locations of their homes, businesses or schools on a map and to enter their current mode of access to the Internet. Working with the Massachusetts Office of Geographic and Environmental Information (MassGIS), the MBI has a head start on mapping broadband access across the state.

The Massachusetts Broadband Data Mapping Project will accomplish the following:

1. Develop a database of broadband availability and capability at the county, community and street level.

2. Put in place the tools, partnerships, and processes to keep the database current and accurate;
* make the public portions of the database easily accessible by the citizens, businesses and agencies throughout the state, while maintaining the security and integrity of the data.

3.Utilize stringent protocols and processes consistent with all state and federal legal requirements to protect confidential data.

4. Provide regular updates of the data to the NTIA for inclusion in a nationwide database.

The MBI proposes to build broadband fiber infrastructure that will provide citizens of all unserved and underserved communities of western Massachusetts with high-speed Internet access. Specifically, the MBI plans 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 (e.g., schools, libraries, hospitals and other facilities) and other critical community facilities. The project could create as many as 3,040 jobs and would be in partnership with other state and local government entities, non-profits and for-profit companies.

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