Grant Program Seeks To Speed Up Broadband Expansion

Mar 28, 2017

The Baker Administration is rolling out a new grant program designed to speed up broadband expansion in rural parts of Massachusetts. $20 million will be available to towns looking to build their own networks.

Before, communities were forced to work with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute on the design phase, with MBI holding back state money for that purpose.

Many town officials, like Brian Hawthorne, who chairs the broadband committee in the Hampshire County community of Plainfield, complained the whole thing was taking too long.

"While it has been a productive process in many ways, it has been a changing process," Hawthorne said. "It has been frustrating to the town, all of the hoops we've had to jump through that changed on a regular basis."

Now, towns will receive a grant covering some of the costs for designing and constructing their broadband networks. And the yy'll get flexibility in how they choose to build it.

So why the shift by the state?

Carolyn Kirk with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, which is overseeing the project, said feedback from many towns was enough to convince officials to make the changes.

Kirk said not only could the change speed up the "Last Mile" project, there also might be a cost savings by allowing communities to make their own deals.

Towns are responsible for the rest of the price tag beyond the state grant.