Rural Broadband Network Begins To Go Online In Western Massachusetts

The long-awaited fiber-optic network that is supposed to finally bring high speed internet to more than 120 central and western Massachusetts communities is nearing completion.

The Massachusetts Broadband Institute had hoped to finish work on the 1200-mile long  infrastructure by mid-summer. But director Judy Dumont says weather events pushed back the completion date to the end of this year.

“Hurricane Sandy had a big impact on us. Not that it impacted Massachusetts, but all the crews, even our crews working on putting the fiber up were called to New York and New Jersey to help out with restoration down there.”

Dumont says one segment of the network has already come online, connecting schools, libraries, police and fire stations in eight western Massachusetts communities.

Kathy Bort, director of the Otis Library, says she’s just waiting for the go-ahead from ISP vendors to switch onto the network. She says the library is the one place where the public can access high-speed internet via its current Wi-Fi service.

“If there’s lots of people using the service at one time, even Wi-Fi can be pretty slow. And so this will definitely be much more efficient and much faster.”

The final step will be connecting residents and businesses. The Broadband Institute’s Dumont says a $40 million IT bond bill to help finance that so-called “Last Mile” connection is still awaiting action in the legislature. And she adds it could be another one to three years before all Baystate residents have access to broadband service.