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Editorial: Internet purgatory

As Shelburne, Buckland and a number of other communities in Franklin County just found out, it’s hard to get out of high-speed Internet purgatory.

This lesson was made plain to selectmen after hearing from WiredWest representatives that they won’t be getting any share of the $40 million state fund that is supposed to bring high-speed broadband to communities across Massachusetts. That money will be going to the towns no high-speed service whatsoever.

What’s keeping Buckland, Shelburne and others out of the money is that they have limited high-speed Internet already in town, via Comcast. In the eyes of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, the organization that is steering the Internet expansion route, limited service disqualifies communities from the money, even though half the community doesn’t have access.

This is clearly disappointing. But what’s worse is that the plan for the underserved communities doesn’t seem like much of a plan. The idea is to provide incentives for Comcast and the like to expand their service reach.

“Incentivizing Comcast to build out to the entire town is now Plan A,” said Reva Reck, WiredWest’s vice chairman. As to a Plan B, well that seems to be still on some drawing board somewhere.

Given the region’s history with cable providers, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and WiredWest would be wise to develop Plan B as quickly as possible.

In the end, it comes down to money and where it is going to come from.

Most likely to get this done, it’s going to require a cobbling together of financial sources, federal, state and even local, as has been the case in Leverett, to provide enough additional wiring.

Shelburne, Buckland and other underserved communities are right in being angry over what they now face. High-speed Internet service has become an integral part of everyday life, for business, government, education — you name it.

Since the private providers have shown that they’re not going to step up their game, the state and federal governments have to do more to ensure no community is left behind.

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