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State bond bill may add $17M for broadband



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A pending state bond bill could add about $17 million more in funding for broadband to unserved communities.

Sen. Stan Rosenberg’s office confirmed that both the state House and Senate have recently reauthorized $32 million for “technical assistance, planning and studies, designs, specifications, construction” and other municipal needs “related to the development, extension and deployment of broadband infrastructure” under the guidelines adopted by the Executive Office for Housing and Economic Development.

About $12 million in new funding would be added to the state’s broadband grant program and another $5 million would be added to the Broadband Incentive Fund, if the final bill is passed by the Legislature and the governor.

Recently, the Senate amended this bond bill by calling for a government study of the long-term capital and deferred maintenance needs of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke — a measure that is being reviewed before the amended bill goes back to the House and Senate for a vote.

“We absolutely must do everything we can to secure high speed internet in every community in western Massachusetts — now. While we have made recent progress, many towns need additional funds for a range of reasons. This bond authorization is critical for finalizing access to this basic utility,” said State Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield.

The bill still has to be enacted by both chambers before being sent to the governor, according to Rosenberg’s office. Legislators hope to do it this week.

The Last Mile Program was designed to support 44 unserved western Massachusetts communities with residential broadband access projects. Grants are awarded to communities through the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to assist municipalities with expanding access to high speed internet for residents and businesses.