Healey administration awards $45M to extend broadband infrastructure

In the rural town of Florida, located in northwestern Massachusetts, access to high-speed broadband internet is limited, posing potential risks for emergency services. The town is among several communities in the Pioneer Valley set to receive high-speed internet lines through a $45.5 million grant, provided by the state and the Massachusetts Broadband Institute.

Other beneficiary cities and towns include Greenfield, Hawley, Monroe, Savoy, Amherst, Bernardston, Chicopee, Deerfield, Holyoke, and Springfield. Four internet providers – Comcast, Greenfield Community Energy and Technology, Spectrum Northeast, and Verizon New England – were awarded the grant as part of the state’s Broadband Infrastructure Gap Networks Program.

The program aims to install high-speed internet lines to approximately 2,000 locations in 41 Massachusetts communities that currently lack broadband access. The funding is a step towards addressing the digital divide across the state. Yvonne Hao, the state’s economic development secretary, stated, “Expanding digital equity is essential to building a healthy economy that benefits everyone.”

The four organizations awarded the grant must use the funds for projects that provide internet access to all existing unserved and underserved serviceable locations, deliver service with speeds of at least 100 megabits per second for downloads and uploads, and offer a minimum of a 20% funding match, with waivers for certain municipalities with existing debt obligations associated with municipal fiber grant projects. The providers must complete their projects by December 31, 2026.

The broadband funding is part of the “Last Mile” project, which uses state subsidies to make it economically viable for companies to connect high-speed internet in rural towns that currently lack it. As of the most recent figures, 48 out of 53 “last mile” towns in Central and Western Massachusetts have completed projects, with five others in progress.

Comcast plans to use the $2.7 million it received to connect more residents in Palmer, Monson, and Ware, towns it already provides internet to, to its gigabit-speed network. Verizon expressed its commitment to building and enhancing its fast, reliable network statewide, while promoting digital inclusion and equity in under-resourced communities. Greenfield Community Energy and Technology plans to work closely with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to implement the funding as quickly and efficiently as possible. Spectrum Northeast declined to comment.

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