In Massachusetts, Governor to Sign $40 Million Broadband Bill Aimed at Spurring Investment

States August 4th, 2008

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Broadband Census Massachusetts

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles surveying the state of broadband, and of broadband data, within each of the United States. The complete list is at http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=713. Or visit the BroadbandCensus.com Broadband Wiki. Help build this wiki by making a contribution to BroadbandCensus.com.

August 4 – At 10 a.m. this morning, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is scheduled to sign state-wide broadband legislation at the town hall of Goshen, about 12 miles northwest of Northhampton and in the Berkshire Mountains.

The law creates a $40 million Massachusetts broadband incentive fund, allowing the state to issue 30-year bonds to help bring broadband to unserved communities like Goshen. The funds will be administered by a quasi-public agency, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which has been studying broadband in Massachusetts.

Goshen is one of the 32 towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – out of a total of 351 towns and cities – that have no commercial broadband providers, according to Sharon Gillett, Commissioner of the Department of Telecommunications and Cable.

The 32 towns – all of which are in the western portion of Massachusetts, are “the one that we have defined as having no consumer-level provision of service,” Gillett said in an interview. Gillett said that state defined “unserved” as meaning that they had no access to fiber-optic, cable modem, or digital subscriber line (DSL) service.

The bill, which passed the Massachusetts House on June 30, cleared the Senate in July. Initially composed of $25 million, the House added $15 million to bill in an effort to allow underserved communities to tap into the funding.

Once signed into legislation, the technology collaborative will have the authority to tap into the fund, and “issue requests to the private sector, to anyone who wants to co-invest with the commonwealth, in servicing” these areas, said Gillett. “The governor’s initiative was always intended to stimulate private investment.”

In May 2006 the John Adams Innovation Institute, the economic development arm of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, developed a broadband initiative to support fast and ubiquitous high-speed connectivity throughout Massachusetts.

Last fall, the the John Adams institute published a town-by-town map (see below) of broadband availability, including the names of the providers that offer service to each township. The map identifies townships with 0 providers, with broadband coverage in a portion of the township (which it defined as “underserved”), and townships with 1, 2 or more broadband providers.

The Massachusetts data differs from the data about the numbers of providers indicated by the Federal Communications Commission.

In the Goshen, MA, ZIP code of 01032, for example, the FCC says that there are 5 broadband services; while Massachusetts says that there are 0 broadband services.

Because Massachusetts publicly releases the names of the available providers, BroadbandCensus.com has been able to incorporate this data onto its web site. BroadbandCensus.com combines data from individual internet users, carriers, and state and local government officials. As a result of the data from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, BroadbandCensus.com coverage is more complete in Massachusetts than in any other state.

Gillett said the federal government’s Universal Service Fund and Rural Utilities Service provide subsidization to only 3 of the 32 communities. That’s one reason for the state-wide initiative, she said.

In addition to the unserved communities, “there are another 63 towns that we have identified as underserved or partially served” because they have coverage within a portion of the township.

“Massachusetts has been has been very lucky [in that] we have been a very attractive market,” for investment by major carrier, said Gillett. Speaking of the fiber optic service offered by Verizon Communications, she said, “there are about 70 communities that have FiOS, and the biggest complaint people have about FiOS is, ‘when can I get it?’”

Referring to the combination of internet, cable television and telephone service, Gillett said, “the largest cable provider Comcast has triple play service, and they have all three services available in all communities” in which they offer service.

Gillett said that she expected the state to continue to disclose the names of carriers and where they offer service. “I am all for public disclosure; I understand that the carriers have some issues with that,” she said. “Once you are spending public money, there is accountability as to how you spend it, and there is accountability to make sure that you are spending it in the right places.”

“We need [disclosure] in a way that the state can hold the carriers accountable for the spending of public money,” she said.

Broadband Census Resources:

Below are public and private resources about broadband information in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that BroadbandCensus.com has been able to identify.

In May 2006 the John Adams Innovation Institute, the economic development arm of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, developed a broadband initiative to support public-private partnerships to achieve fast, affordable and ubiquitous connectivity throughout Massachusetts.

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3 Responses to “In Massachusetts, Governor to Sign $40 Million Broadband Bill Aimed at Spurring Investment”

  1. BroadbandCensus.com Says:

    [...] deployment and availability. In August 2008, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, signed legislation authorizing up to $40 million in state funds to ensure that broadband is available to all the [...]

  2. BroadbandCensus.com Says:

    [...] August 4, 2008 – Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill allocating $40 million for the provision of broadband to unserved areas in Massachusetts. [...]

  3. BroadbandCensus.com Says:

    [...] by the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative, a non-profit with $40 million in state funds seeking to ensure universal broadband within the [...]

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