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Polito announces $3.5 million in IT grant allocations during Pittsfield visit

Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito
Josh Landes
/
WAMC
Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, speaking in Pittsfield city hall on December 21st, 2021.

Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito was in Pittsfield Tuesday to announce $3.5 million in information technology grants to 70 municipalities across the state.

The funding source is the state’s Community Compact IT Grant Program, which distributes grants up to $200,000 to local governments to invest in technology.

“So Pittsfield previously received two awards through this IT program. The first was a $40,000 grant in fiscal ‘17 for switching infrastructure to enable telephone system consolidation. Sounds basic, but really important, right? And the second was a $95,000 grant to implement wireless infrastructure for internal and public use," said Polito, speaking at a press conference inside city hall. “Today, we are thrilled to announce that Pittsfield will be awarded another community compact IT grant this time for almost $100,000 to tackle another priority which is building a downtown public Wi Fi network, which will help ensure that all residents have access to reliable internet service.”

“I'm pleased to say that for those who live, work and enjoy all of what Pittsfield has to offer, the installation of a public Wi-Fi addresses one of the needs and it really has two primary benefits," said Mayor Linda Tyer. “As the largest city in Berkshire County, we are the home to nearly 45,000 residents. We are a business destination, an employer hub, and we attract hundreds throughout the county and beyond who work here. However, we know that a substantial number of our residents are under-resourced and do not have reliable access to the internet. And in a time when so much of our lives from work to school requires access to the internet, this is more than a want. It is essentially a utility that we need to create a thriving quality of life for every resident regardless of economic status. With this public Wi-Fi network, we will be able to strategically position these Wi-Fi hotspots to bolster digital equity in our community and further narrow the digital divide.”

Tyer says the network will be focused on two of Pittsfield’s lower income neighborhoods, Morningside and the West Side, in addition to the downtown.

“Beyond these high value and necessary additions, the availability of a public Wi-Fi system enhances the experience of those who visit our city," continued Tyer. "As you all know, Berkshire County is a destination and so as Pittsfield, we are part of the art and culture economy here in the Berkshires. And so we welcome thousands of visitors, they come to our city for special events, theater performances, art and cultural attractions. They dine in our restaurants and shop in our in our in our stores. So the presence of high speed internet allows for a more streamlined and robust experience from start to finish, not only for the visitor, but for the organization that's welcoming these visitors.”

City officials say they hope to begin work on the network using the grant money in the first half of 2022.

“I have to recognize an outstanding member of my executive team, which is Mike Steben, for- He is our city's first ever Chief Information Officer, and I want to thank Mike for his exceptional work," said Tyer, to applause. "As the lieutenant governor mentioned, you've succeeded already three times with the community compact grant. This is the most powerful one so far. I'm so grateful for your commitment and for your innovation.”

Western Massachusetts has long lagged behind the rest of the state with access to the internet.

“It was when the pandemic hit that I got struck on the side of my head with many, many families in the big city of Pittsfield, just a couple of blocks from downtown, didn't have access to the internet. Which means they didn't have access to school, and they didn't have access to applying for unemployment insurance, and they didn't have access to books on tape from the library and all the different things, they didn't have access, because access isn't just that the fiber’s coming through town- It's that it has to be affordable," said 3rd Berkshire State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Democrat. “Now, there's a couple of people, not everybody, but there's a couple of people in this audience who remembers having a landline at home. Right? And when I remember being a kid, and, boy, there's not too many people going to remember this, but you paid for long distance as a separate charge. And your basic service was about $13. Okay, so think about the expense for a family now, compared to our families growing up. It's a huge expense to pay for these computers that we put in our pockets. Right? And so what has that done? That has tapped the digital divide that the mayor just mentioned, right, is these inequities because of this are growing and growing and growing because they don't have access. And this, mayor, you've worked with Mike to put this program together to give access to a whole lot more people in Pittsfield. And for that, I am grateful.”

Other Berkshire communities included in the IT grant disbursement are New Ashford, Great Barrington, and Cheshire.

This was Polito’s first visit to Berkshire County since the Republican announced she will not seek a third term next year.

Here's the full list of fiscal year 2022 Community Compact IT Grant recipients in Massachusetts:

MunicipalityGrant Amt.Project Description
Acushnet$54,300Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Amesbury$156,000Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Amherst$74,625Construction of a downtown public wi-fi network
Ashburnham$10,880Transition to a cloud-hosted phone system
Ashland$95,000Improvement of public safety radio communications system
Athol$73,478Implementation of network security across all Town buildings
Auburn$60,000Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Avon$59,480Implementation of an e-permitting system
Bellingham$18,900Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Billerica$65,800Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Boxford$31,600Implementation of an e-permitting system
Brookfield$59,640Implementation of a records management system
Charlemont$23,477Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Chelsea$80,000Implementation of a records management system
Cheshire$40,561Creation of a town network
Chesterfield$34,000Creation of a town network
Chilmark$31,000Implementation of a records management system
Concord$89,000Implementation of a Public/Private wireless network
Dennis$19,731Implementation of a voice over IP solution
Dighton$16,869Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
East Longmeadow$114,503Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Easthampton$125,000Deployment of a multi-faceted public safety system
Essex$41,670Implementation of a public engagement system
Falmouth$125,000Implementation of a fire station alerting system
Georgetown$2,800Fire Department system integration
Great Barrington$8,300Implementation of a records management system
Hadley$11,209Implementation of a voice over IP solution
Harvard$29,124Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Holbrook$9,995Implementation of a voice over IP solution
Hopkinton$60,000Implementation of a records management system
Huntington$17,000Implementation of an e-permitting system
Lakeville$113,347Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Leicester$25,000Implementation of a cloud-based software for EMTs and Paramedics
Leyden$47,963Implement an integrated financial management system
Littleton$56,000Migration of applications and data from to a cloud Infrastructure
Longmeadow$27,750Implementation of a records management system
Ludlow$10,300Implementation of an iPad training/education program for senior citizens at  the Ludlow Senior Center
Manchester-by-the-Sea$100,000Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities for regional IT initiative
Medway$40,976Fire Department mobile workstations
Merrimac$25,245Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Middleborough$79,767Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Montgomery$15,000Implementation of a secure network access to remote users
New Ashford$11,000Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
North Brookfield$14,000Implementation of network security
Norwell$65,000Implementation of a records management system
Oak Bluffs$58,109Town network modifications
Orleans$9,500Implementation of an e-permitting system
Oxford$47,588CAD system enhancement
Pembroke$88,500Implementation of a records management system
Peru$25,000Implement an integrated financial management system
Phillipston$8,000Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Pittsfield$99,750Construction of a downtown public wi-fi network
Plymouth$100,000Implementation of an e-permitting system
Raynham$16,416Town network modifications
Revere$48,615Integration of various networked systems
Rochester$66,090Implementation of an e-permitting system
Salisbury$57,137Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Sandwich$78,000Implementation of an electronic work order system for the Department of Public Works
Savoy$50,000Creation of a town network
Sharon$10,000Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Sherborn$11,020Enable hybrid meeting for local governing bodies
Southampton$51,070Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Sterling$100,000Implementation of a voice over IP solution
Templeton$33,565Utilization of a GIS-based cemetery records management system
Truro$80,000Implementation of a records management system
West Brookfield$47,000Improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities
Westminster$1,400Utilization of a water billing system
Westwood$58,218Implementation of  mobile ticketing for Police Department
Whitman$79,645Centralizing resources via the implementation of  thin clients
Williamsburg$22,000GIS implementation

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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