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New York Gov. Hochul announces "parameters of conceptual" budget deal, two weeks after deadline

Fiber Optic High-Speed Internet Will Come to Western Mass. in March

Massachusetts Broadband Institute

A public economic development institute in Massachusetts has released a detailed map of when areas of Western Massachusetts will be connected with a federally funded high-speed internet fiber optic network. The first segments will be operational in the coming months.

At a community meeting in Great Barrington on Tuesday evening, Judy Dumont, and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative announced that the first segments of the fiber-optic MassBroadband 123 network will be lit up this March.

Dumont said that originally planned for completion in June, the effects of Superstorm Sandy delayed work on the so-called “middle mile” phase of the network by about 4 to 6 weeks. Completion is expected in July. The MBI has released a map detailing when areas will begin receiving the high-speed signal, with areas between Springfield to Sandisfield, and Sandisfield to Great Barrington first in line.

Once the network is completed, it will bring next-generation internet service to 1,200 community anchor institutions, which include town halls, schools, hospitals, and police stations.

But the project as it stands now will not connect individual homes and businesses. Judy Dumont says the so-called “last mile” stage is what comes next.

Wired West is a group that represents 42 of the underserved and unserved municipalities in Western Massachusetts. Wired West’s volunteers have completed survey work, mapped of utility poles, and are working to determine the demand for high-speed internet across the region.

Monica Webb, chair of Wired West, said that for individual homes and businesses to be able to connect to the fiber optic backbone, she’d like to see the state government provide some options to municipalities.

Steve Nelson is also with Wired West…

Other efforts to connect communities on the local level include efforts made by the town of Tyringham, and internet service provider WiSpring. Judy Dumont also highlighted efforts by the town of Leverett, which is funding their last mile connections themselves through municipal bonds.

In 2012 the MBI provided grants to enhance internet adoption among certain populations. Small business technology grants were provided, for example, to the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation to allow small businesses in Berkshire County to connect to the internet provide employee training or modernize their equipment. The Mass Vets Advisor service was also launched in collaboration with the state Department of Veterans Services and the US Department of Veterans Affairs to allow veterans to easily search their benefits, while encouraging internet adoption.

For more information visit: http://broadband.masstech.org/

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