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The final miles

To be honest, we’ve lost track of the number of years Franklin County communities have been waiting for a faster Internet connection.

During that time, we’ve also lost count of the plethora of efforts that have tried to solve the problem, attempts that ran up against the same seemingly insurmountable problem — money — when it came to wiring towns that were either not served or under-served by cable providers in the state.

It’s been discouraging, especially as that sort of access is recognized as a much-needed economic tool for our county and the North Quabbin area.

But finally there appears to be a break in the roadblock — at least in one corner of the county.

As reported last week in The Recorder, Leverett’s Selectboard has agreed to spend $2.7 million to establish what will be a municipality-owned network to make available high-speed Internet and telephone service to every house and business. The town will be hooking up to the MassBroadband 123, the network that has been hatched under the auspices of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, created through state legislation and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2008.

And, if it has taken longer than expected to reach this particular milestone — the hope was to have this “middle mile network” in place by 2010 — we can only imagine where the state might be if this particular governor hadn’t seen the importance of broadband access and the role that government has to play in providing it.

However, it’s not only state government that has a role here. Leverett would not be poised to complete access without town officials seeing the role the town must play and an acceptance on the part of a solid majority of residents willing to see taxpayer money go toward this project.

Perhaps as the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative continues its work to provide access elsewhere, other towns will see that they, too, need to be part of the financial solution in wiring their community. Part of any persuasion, we think should start with what the governor said in October 2007. “Today’s global economy requires that every corner of our commonwealth be wired for the 21st century ... The digital divide that persists in too many Massachusetts communities has gone on for long enough.”

Thanks to the citizens of Leverett, we are closer to finally bridging that divide.

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