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Broadband Funding Available to Berkshire Businesses


Small businesses in the Berkshires are being encouraged to apply for a grant that would allow them to expand their use of technology and broadband internet. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

Between now and January 31st, some small businesses in the Berkshires are eligible to apply for funding that would serve to expand their use of broadband technology. The initiative is managed by the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation, or PERC.

Ann Dobrowolski of PERC says that up to ten businesses with annual budget of $500,000 or less may be selected for the awards.

Through a Federal grant by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute distributed $1 million among economic development corporations across the Commonwealth to increase small businesses’ involvement with broadband technology.

Director of the MBI Judy Dumont…

PERC is the only agency in the Berkshires selected to administer local awards. Other economic development corporations participating in the initiative include Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation in Ware, the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation in Boston, and the Southeast Economic Development Corporation in New Bedford.

The Massachusetts Broadband Institute, a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, is also the organization given oversight to the construction of the MassBroadband 123 Fiber Optic Network, a federally funded initiative to build a high-speed internet backbone that will connect underserved communities in Central and Western Massachusetts.

Judy Dumont says that the as the new year approaches, the MBI is in the process of finalizing the project schedule that would determine when municipalities will be “lit up” with high-speed internet. Currently contractors are still doing “make-ready” work with the cooperation of utility companies to allow for a new fiber optic cable to be strung up on existing utility poles across the state.

The MBI is also working to install equipment in 1,200 community anchor institutions – including schools, town halls, hospitals, police stations, and more – to be able to use the high-speed signal.

The target for completion of the fiber-optic network is June, 2013.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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