Senate Passes Broadband Stimulus Bill
SENATE PASSES BROADBAND STIMULUS BILL
Steps Taken to Ensure Massachusetts is Eligible for Maximum Amount of Federal Funding to Support Broadband Deployment Initiatives
Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) announces today the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation enabling the Commonwealth to take full advantage of federal stimulus funds authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for broadband deployment initiatives.
Downing, a major proponent of legislation in 2008 establishing the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and funding it with a $40 million state capital bond authorization, helped to shepherd this stimulus-related proposal through the Senate today.
The MBI is tasked with extending affordable high-speed Internet access to all homes, businesses, schools, libraries, medical facilities, government offices and other public places across the state, focusing first on unserved areas.
“Passage of this legislation puts Massachusetts in a solid position to gain access to federal funds that will assist MBI with its mission,” said Downing. “Today, reliable broadband service is not considered a luxury – it is a necessity for continued economic development, engaging educational opportunities, higher property values and advanced public safety initiatives. Pairing available federal funds with state bond monies will further our efforts to ensure all currently unserved and underserved communities will soon be plugged-in to a reliable high speed internet connection.”
Downing represents 48 communities in western Massachusetts, 22 of which are unserved – or completely without access to broadband – as well an additional 15 towns with only partial access to high speed internet.
The broadband stimulus bill is largely a technical proposal with four main components:
- Authorization for the MBI to use its fund to acquire indefeasible rights of uses of fiber facilities and FCC licenses;
- Clarification that petitions relative to the zoning of a communications or cable facility will be reviewed by the Department of Telecommunications and Cable and petitions relative to all other types of public service facilities will be reviewed by the Department of Public Utilities;
- Clarification that the MBI may be exempt from local zoning by-laws or ordinances so long as the MBI is acting within the confines of its essential government functions; and
- Authorization of a transfer of Mass. Highway Department property to the MBI to enable certain broadband initiatives along the I-91 corridor.
Congress authorized $7.2 billion in ARRA for broadband deployment initiatives. Information and updates from the MBI is available at www.massbroadband.org.
ARRA Federal Broadband Funding Programs
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has targeted $7.2 billion of federal funding to address the problem of broadband access and adoption in the nation. In July, the federal programs that will distribute these funds announced the guidelines for applying. This information is available online at http://www.broadbandUSA.gov.
WesternMA Connect has been working with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) to explore opportunities for western Massachusetts to access these resources. Based on the information gathered, WesternMA Connect has created a brief summary of these federal programs and developed a plan of action. In short, we believe that the best approach is for the region to be coordinated and work collaboratively on a single regional application to each program. This is a challenging task, since applications are due on August 14, 2009.
Following this approach, the MBI is the lead applicant for the infrastructure program for western Massachusetts. For projects in western Massachusetts seeking funds from the Sustainable Broadband Adoption Program or the Public Computer Center Program, WesternMA Connect would like to aggregate these projects into a single application to each program. If successful, the projects identified in these submitted applications would then be implemented by the partners identified in that application.
If you have a potential partner or a project idea that would be appropriate for the Sustainable Broadband Adoption Program or the Public Computer Center Program, please share them with WesternMA Connect by emailing email@example.com or by calling Jessica Atwood at 413-774-1194 x101 by Tuesday, July 27, 2009. Please keep in mind that three rounds of funding are proposed, so not all projects need to be submitted in the first round.
For more information…
A website for WesternMA Connect is in development. Until completed, the websites of http://www.bconnect.org or http://www.pioneervalleyconnect.org and contact information for the former Connects will continue to be utilized. For more information about WesternMA Connect, please contact: Sharon Ferry, 413-496-9606 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jessica Atwood, 413-774-1194 x101 or email@example.com. To unsubscribe from this email update, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.