Monday, May 10, 2010

$45.4 Million Western Mass. Broadband Project Advances to Due Diligence 05/10/2010 San Francisco - The $45.4 middle mile broadband stimulus project proposed by the Administration of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) has been advanced to the due diligence review phase of the federal program. The project is planned around multiple optical fiber rings transiting the rural counties of Western Massachusetts, and the economically struggling Route 2 corridor.

President Obama appears with Gov. Patrick (l), on 04/01/2010, at
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency headquarters in
Framingham, MA, during the agency's response operations to severe
floods in the Northeast.   Photo: AP
We believe today's news out of Westborough, MA, headquarters of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), is significant for 2 reasons: 

This is the first such large state supported middle mile project to be announced as entering the critical second step of the federal program's current Round 2 funding cycle.  Secondly, the announced move by the feds signals that Round 2 is moving ahead faster than the delay and error plagued Round 1.  

Responding to our question of this afternoon, spokespeople at MBI informed us that Massachusetts was told on May 3 that their project had entered due diligence.  The Massachusetts proposal was thus in first level evaluation for a period of just 5 weeks, following its submittal for the March 26 application deadline for Round 2.

MBI this afternoon announced, "The MBI's federal stimulus application, MassBroadband 123, is currently in due diligence review by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). This is a critical part of the process that will determine if MassBroadband 123 receives funding by the Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."  MBI is the state brodband program of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, housed in the quasi pulbic economic developmental authority called the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC).  Patrick's first director of MBI, Sharon E. Gillett, became the Chief of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau in August of 2009. 

As we have reported for over a year, Patrick has made the delivery of broadband services to Western Massachusetts a cornerstone of his economic developmental agenda for the region.  Perhaps more importantly, he has made state subsidized networks in the region a policy and political commitment since his first run for chief executive in 2006.  Patrick is this year seeking reelection to his second term in the gubernatorial Corner Office of the State House on Boston's Beacon Hill.    

Surprising many state and national observers of the broadband stimulus program of the Obama Administration, MBI's first round middle mile application for $100 million was rejected in January without entering due diligence review in Round 1.  The surprise came in light of both the close personal and political relationship between President Obama himself and Patrick, and the role of so many Massachusetts based Democratic officials in supporting the proposal.  Other than Patrick, most prominent in this latter category has been Massachusetts senior U.S. Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA).  Kerry, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

Beginning in the late 1990s, Kerry was the first statewide official to endorse, and then strongly lobby for its interests in Washington, the efforts of Berkshire Connect, Inc.  The non-profit is a national model for regional demand side aggregation of telecom end users organized to collectively purchase, and spur capital investment in, high capacity network services in underserved areas.  In 2009 Berkshire connect merged with its more recently created sister organization, Pioneer Valley Connect to form the larger regional Western Mass Connect, Inc.

Here, Kerry uses the April 27th Senate Small Business Committee oversight hearing on the FCC's National Broadband Plan to call the MassBroadband 123 proposal "the best in its class":    

Our Take
Within hours of announcing the rejection by NTIA, Governor Patrick publicly stated his staff and agencies "will work overtime" to file a new application by the filing deadline of March 26 for Round 2.

We think that Patrick will most probably get his broadband stimulus fondest wish this time around. 
Web Analytics