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Legislators seek money for cable expansion

Local state legislators are going to bat for partially served “cable towns” by asking the state for $10 million to help expand cable infrastructure for high-speed Internet.

Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, said he, Rep. Paul Mark and Sens. Stanley Rosenberg and Benjamin Downing have filed an amendment to Gov. Deval Patrick’s $40 million Internet technology bond bill. The amendment would add another $10 million as incentive for cable company expansion in hilltowns now only partially served by Comcast.

This summer, town officials from Buckland, Shelburne, Conway, Northfield, Huntington, Cheshire and Washington learned that the $40 million bond bill would not be used to help deliver “last mile” broadband fiber-optics to towns already served by commercial providers, such as Comcast, even if 50 percent of the town population does not have cable access.

“It’s challenging, because you cannot over-build a new broadband network where there is existing service,” Kulik said. “What we’re proposing is to add language to this bill, to provide incentive money to expand cable service,” said Kulik.

Although the installation of fiberoptics infrastructure would provide faster high-speed Internet access than cable, Kulik said many residents are satisfied with cable Internet ­­— and those with no high-speed access now would rather have cable access than nothing at all.

“The partial cable towns aren’t eligible for federal funds,” Kulik continued. “Carving out a way to reach out to these towns and extend cable seems a better way to do this.”

Kulik said Judith Dumont of Massachusetts Broadband Institute and Linda Dunlavy of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments have assisted with the amendment.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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