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WiredWest looks for role  in state broadband plans

Following a recent meeting with Massachusetts Broadband Institute and area legislators, the 42-town WiredWest cooperative is pledging its support for a proposed $40 million state bond to develop a fiber-to-the-home network for roughly 45 towns that are unserved by cable.

“WiredWest remains committed to universally available and fairly priced fiber-optic broadband access for citizens and businesses of its member towns,” said WiredWest Chairwoman Monica Webb. “The proposed capital investment by the state is a crucial step toward achieving those goals and we look forward to participating in making a last-mile network a reality.”

The municipal coop’s executive board met last week with MBI officials, along with Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, and Reps. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, and Denise Andrews, D-Orange, to discuss the proposed broadband bond and how it could be used to build out a fiber-optic network from MBI’s 1,200-mile Broadband 123 “middle-mile” fiber trunk.

Webb, who before the session had expressed concern that its own plans for a universal, affordable fiber-to-the-home solution in its 42 member towns might be compromised in a state-built system, said she’s now convinced that MBI is committed to building a fiber-optic link to every address in each of the communities unserved by cable, “and they’re very committed to it being affordable. That will very much hinge on who the (Internet service) provider is and the models used.”

MBI and WiredWest are looking at ways to involve the municipal cooperative in a state-built last-mile network, and Webb said, “If WiredWest is somehow involved, we will be much more able to ensure the value of affordability we have as a cooperative.”

“We’re beginning to work on what that potential partnership would look like,” said Webb. “It’s a unique situation. I don’t know of any other states that have gotten into the universal last-mile provision in this way. This will probably be a pioneering model.”

MBI, which dedicated the first leg of its MassBroadband 123 network, is scheduled to complete a section later this month, providing wholesale service to Northfield, Bernardston, Leyden, Shelburne, Colrain, Hawley, Charlemont Heath, Rowe and Monroe. Although the service will not be immediately available to homes and businesses in those communities, schools, libraries, town halls and other municipal services will have access to broadband.

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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