$4.3 Million Investment in Western Massachusetts Broadband Expansion Announced
July 28, 2009
NORTHAMPTON – Governor Deval Patrick today announced a new partnership between the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and the Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) to bring broadband to unserved and underserved communities in Western Massachusetts.
Joined by elected leaders and administration officials at the MassHighway District 2 office in Northampton, the Governor said $4.3 million in state bond funds will help build out broadband networks to enhance service for small businesses, schools and individuals and improve security and transportation operations in the area.
“We are determined to empower all students and businesses with the tools they need to succeed,” said Governor Patrick. “By leveraging an existing road project to bring broadband access to Western Massachusetts, we are positioning the Commonwealth to compete for federal stimulus grants and investing wisely in our future.”
“The I-91 project allows our broadband initiative to expand in both scope and breadth, truly providing access for the whole Commonwealth,” stated Senator Karen Spilka. “It is thrilling to see this project get underway. Its impact on the state’s economy and quality of life in Western Massachusetts will be profound.”
“I am enormously grateful for Governor Deval Patrick’s efforts to bring the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and the Executive Office of Transportation together to partner on this important project,” said Congressman John Olver. “It is my strong belief that the installation of telecommunications infrastructure should be considered anytime the ground is opened for a state road construction project. This initial investment will save money in the end and ensure that our small businesses, first responders, government entities, schools and individuals will have access to broadband, ultimately strengthening our economy, making our communities safer and improving our children’s educational opportunities.”
Congressman Olver’s tireless efforts at the federal level have resulted in significant funding for running fiber-optic cable up Interstate 91 for an Intelligent Traffic System, and for simultaneously placing additional conduits for the purposes of economic development and build out of broadband networks in Western Massachusetts.
By providing a critical infrastructure component to the future Western Massachusetts broadband ring, the MBI-EOT partnership is expected to greatly enhance the state’s grant application for broadband funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project also demonstrates the creativity and commitment of agencies within the Patrick-Murray Administration to working together to achieve cost-savings and efficiencies.
“With this innovative project, we are building an essential component of the future Western Massachusetts broadband network,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki. “Broadband results in greater job, business and educational opportunities, increases property values, improves public safety and increases access to health care. I want to thank the Legislature for its swift action in passing the Governor’s Broadband Stimulus Bill to expedite the process.”
“This collaborative effort is the perfect example of how we intend to ensure that transportation investments support economic development and help build stronger communities,” said Secretary of Transportation James A. Aloisi, Jr. “Not only are we building a framework to deliver safety information to drivers more efficiently than ever before, we are encouraging the long-awaited expansion of high-speed internet to underserved communities in Western Massachusetts.”
“I commend Governor Patrick for his commitment to bringing high speed broadband access and the potential for new employment opportunities to Western Massachusetts,” said Representative Peter V. Kocot.
“The I-91 fiber project is a critical piece of the high-speed network that will be built to bring broadband to the smaller Hilltown communities in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties,” said Representative Stephen Kulik. “This fiber backbone along the Connecticut River Valley will help to fully utilize the $40 million in our Broadband Bond legislation, as well as to maximize our access to the federal stimulus funds for broadband. I thank Governor Patrick for his continued support and active involvement in working to bring high-speed telecom services to our underserved communities.”
Representative Smitty Pignatelli said, “Improvements to our underserved areas here in Western Massachusetts are certainly welcome and necessary. Better access to the Internet is an issue very important to my constituents and I am very excited about this project.”
The new partnership builds on the existing MassHighway project, which has consisted of six 1.25” fiber-optic conduits that run from the Connecticut border 50 miles up I-91 to 4.56 miles south of the Vermont border. The Governor’s investment extends the conduits up the additional 4.56 miles to the Vermont border. Completing these last five miles will enable collaboration across state borders in a variety of areas, including public safety, education, e-health and access to Internet2.
Two conduits will be used by MassHighway for their Intelligent Traffic System. The other four conduits, reserved for economic development and the build out of broadband networks in Western Massachusetts, will be leased by the MBI, which will own the fiber placed in one of the conduits and lease the other three for future development.
While it is typical for highway broadband projects to result in long-haul networks that can only be accessed every 40 or 50 miles by broadband carriers and providers, the four economic development conduits along I-91 will sweep out to 33 shared resource nodes where providers can access the cable over the course of 55 miles. Once populated with fiber, the new economic development conduit and 33 access nodes – each less than two miles apart – will enable carriers and providers to flexibly and quickly deploy a wide variety of network designs that can reach citizens and businesses throughout the Commonwealth. I-91 crosses I-90 near Springfield, a major hub where networks can connect to the Internet and the location of the newest data center being built by the Commonwealth – which will be part of the area’s economic revitalization, and will help create new jobs.
The MBI portion of the project is already benefitting from MassHighway’s progress to date: rights of way and approval from conservation commission are secured and engineering is 70 percent complete, crews and equipment are mobilized and construction is currently under way.
Broadband infrastructure investments are critical components of Governor Patrick’s Massachusetts Recovery Plan, which combines state, federal and, where possible, private efforts to provide immediate and long-term relief and position the Commonwealth for recovery in the following ways:
- Deliver immediate relief by investing in the road, bridge and rail projects that put people to work today and providing safety net services that sustain people who are especially vulnerable during an economic crisis;
- Build a better tomorrow through education and infrastructure investments that strengthen our economic competitiveness, prepare workers for the jobs of the future and support clean energy, broadband and technology projects that cut costs while growing the economy; and
- Reform state government by eliminating the pension and ethics loopholes that discredit the work of government and revitalize the transportation networks that have suffered from decades of neglect and inaction.