MBI to Montague: It’s Comcast or you lose gov’t broadband funding

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/30/2016 10:32:06 PM

MONTAGUE — The Massachusetts Broadband Institute is offering the town the option to either choose Comcast to cover the underserved homes in Montague, or opt out and lose the government funding offered through the broadband extension program.

After a meeting between The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and MBI on Thursday, the state agencies passed a motion to enter into grant negotiations with Comcast. The negotiations would include broadband expansion programs in 11 towns, including Northfield, Shelburne, Conway and Buckland.

In the past few weeks, the state has endorsed Comcast for the buildout, citing financial stability and experience constructing broadband networks to rural communities.

The MBI Board Chairman Peter Larkin submitted a letter on Thursday to town officials in both Montague and Hardwick, informing the selectboards of their decision and giving them the option not to participate.

The letter asks that if the towns decline to move forward with a Comcast broadband expansion, that they notify MBI in writing by July 13.

If the selectboards do not respond by the deadline, MBI will assume that the towns wish to proceed with Comcast.

If the selectboards vote to not move forward with Comcast, the community will no longer be eligible to have a broadband expansion project funded by MBI.

“The MBI is hopeful that your selectboards will accept the board’s decision to move forward with a grant to Comcast to extend its broadband services to unserved residents in your communities but recognizes that your towns are not obliged to do so,” said Larkin in the letter. “We look forward to quickly completing negotiations with Comcast to ensure a prompt delivery of broadband service to your town’s unserved residents.

The news of the state’s decision comes after months of the town rallying against Comcast, in favor of the provider Matrix, which MBI dismissed citing financial instability.

“We are very disappointed that the MBI continues to act in a highhanded manner, forcing the town to make a decision without any information. It’s not what we hoped and it’s not in the spirit of cooperation, but rejecting the money is sillier than accepting it, given that we have no information,” said Robert Steinberg, Broadband Committee member.

“I would appreciate some additional information about the quality and quantity of what we are agreeing or not agreeing to,” said Steinberg, asking that the MBI submit a detailed report with more information by the beginning of next week.


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