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Berkshire County (MA)

Massachusetts Broadband Institute Eligible for Federal Funds; Unveils Interactive Survey

in Broadband Data/Broadband Stimulus/NTIA/States by

NEW SALEM, MASS., May 26, 2009 – Governor Deval Patrick (D) on Tuesday designated the Massachusetts Broadband Institute as the “eligible entity” for receiving broadband data funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Patrick spoke with Massachusetts Broadband Institute Director Sharon Gillett, and with Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., at an event at which the institute unveiled a new interactive survey, built as a Google Maps mashup.

In addition to the institute, a non-profit entity, serving as the entity responsible for receiving broadband data funding from the federal government, the officials said that the institute would be responsible for aggregating Massachusett’s applications to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to “ensure a balanced portfolio of the state’s needs reaches the NTIA.”

In the interactive survey, Massachusetts residents and businesses are asked to provide information about the speed, price, availability of the broadband that they receive at their location. In addition, residents are invited to comment on their service.

Since January 2008, BroadbandCensus.com has been collecting data about what it calls the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The data about the the local Broadband SPARC is freely available on BroadbandCensus.com under a Creative Commons License.

For nearly two years, Massachusetts has taken a strongly data-centric approach to collecting and publishing broadband data. In June 2007, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative published a township-by-township map, with carrier-specific broadband information, highlighting unserved and underserved areas in the state.

Local governments within the western portion of the state recently updated the map [PDF], based  upon Verizon Communication’s announced upgrades to the digital subscriber line (DSL) service that it offers in portions of Berkshire County and the Pioneer Valley region.

Massachusetts appears to be taking a multi-pronged approach to data-collection. In addition to working with the state agency responsible for Geographic Information Systems – they are partnering on developing a block-level map of broadband infrastructure – Massachusetts is  also taking a bottom-up approach  to collecting broadband information from citizens.

Through the grass-roots efforts of broadband organizers in the western portion of the state, Berkshire Connect and Pioneer Valley collected nearly 5,000 survey responses about the quality of broadband service from residents. Among respondents that had broadband, 16 percent rated their service as “excellent,” with equal portions rated in “good,” “fair” or “poor.” Among those without broadband, 63 percent said it wasn’t available, while 12 percent it was too expensive. [PDF]

With the Tuesday announcement, Massachusetts continues its efforts at public collecting and releasing broadband data at an extremely fine level of granularity.

Highlighting the importance of the granular approach to data collection, Olver said, “It is critically important that decision-makers have a clear understanding of exactly where broadband is accessible and where it is not.”

Olver also noted that the majority of unserved and underserved citizens in the state of Massachusetts were “in his district.”

Statewide studies in Massachusetts have identified 25,000 businesses and 221,000 households that “lack adequate broadband” because their current access is either limited or unavailable.

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com, contributed to this article.

Massachusetts Set to Unveil New Massachusetts Broadband Institute Web Site, Mapping Efforts

in Broadband Data/States/Weekly Report by

From BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2009 – One key area of the broadband stimulus package in which states are certain to have an impact is in the area of collecting and releasing information about local broadband deployment.

In this area, no state has advanced as far as fast as has Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed legislation last August granting $40 million in bond authority for the state to ensure broadband connectivity to all parts of the Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Broadband Institute was originally set up to administer a state-only program with a strong focus in western Massachusetts. It now faces the prospect of accessing about five times that amount, based upon the hypothesis that state funds might well be able to serve as the 20 percent matching grant for federal stimulus funds.

[more...]

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Massachusetts Broadband Institute Will Use Mapping to Identify Unserved and Underserved Areas

in Broadband Data/States by

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2009 – The Massachusetts Broadband Institute on Wednesday announced that it would work with the MassGIS, the state’s Office of Geographic and Environmental Information, to begin to develop a block-level map of broadband infrastructure.

The project is expected to take four months, and will focus on the unserved and underserved communities in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hamden counties in the western portion of the state.

The announcement once again puts Massachusetts at the forefront of the states that have developing policies pertaining to broadband infrastructure and deployment.

In August, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed legislation devoting $40 million of state resources to ensuring broadband availability to every citizen of the state.

The passage of the fiscal stimulus legislation with $7.2 billion for broadband, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has led Massachusetts to also aim to tap into the federal funds to leverage its state resources.

According to the press release about the partnership, the map “will incorporate multiple data sets into one map, creating an extensive inventory of existing assets and a detailed picture of where broadband gaps need to be addressed.” The press release about the agreement is here. [PDF]

“This project will provide a way to incorporate public input regarding coverage gaps experienced by Massachusetts residents and will put more sophisticated data to work in support of Governor Patrick’s goal to bridge the digital divide in Massachusetts by 2011,” said Sharon Gillett, who was named MBI director last month.

Gillett had been the head of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable before taking the position as the head of MBI.

“In addition to helping the MBI make immediate operational and investment decisions in western Massachusetts, the interactive GIS platform created will be scalable in the longer term and well positions Massachusetts for state-wide mapping with federal funding through the Recovery Act,” said Gillett.

“This mapping project is a critical next step towards prioritizing specific and targeted broadband investments,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki.

Housing and Economic Development officially announced the partnership with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environment Affairs. MassGIS, or the Office of Geographic and Environmental Information, officially operates out of that agency.

Massachusetts’ existing broadband map is available here. [1.65 Mb PDF] It is based upon information about which carriers offer broadband within a particular township or ZIP code.

Because the state makes the underlying data about the names of the carriers publicly available, independent entities are able to make sure of the information.

BroadbandCensus.com has incorporated the carrier-specific information from Massachusetts into its public database of the Broadband SPARC – or local broadband speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition.

In a presentation to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Gillett released two additional maps that show carrier-specific cable, telecommunications and wireless service footprints within Massachusetts. These Massachusetts maps are available on the NTIA web site. [PPTX]

In the NTIA presentation, Gillett also made the following point: “Transparency and accountability demand that if maps inform how public funds are spent, map data can be reviewed publicly.” The Gillett presentation to the NTIA is also available on the NTIA web site. [PPT]

Broadband Breakfast Club

Don’t miss the opportunity to register for the May 12, 2009, Broadband Breakfast Club at Clyde’s at Gallery Place. The theme of the April meeting will be, “Spending the Stimulus: How Can Unserved and Underserved Areas Best Be Defined?” Register at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

Confirmed speakers include Rep. Rick Boucher, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee, Randolph J. May, President, Free State Foundation; Jean Plymale, Virginia Tech eCorridors Program; James Bradford Ramsey, General Counsel, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; and S. Derek Turner, Research Director, Free Press.

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