By the end of July, officials say, the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative will have connected all unserved Berkshire County towns with high-speed Internet service.

This phase of the project is known as "middle mile" -- stringing the fiber-optic cable into towns. It is the infrastructure needed to allow independent service providers to connect homes and businesses to broadband in the "last mile" phase of the project. So far, 27 service providers have signed on to offer last mile connections.

As a part if the $76 million middle mile effort, more than 1,200 police and fire stations, town halls, medical facilities, schools and libraries across the state will be connected.

The project, known as MassBroadband123, will bring broadband within reach of 333,500 homes and 44,000 businesses covering about one-third of the state and more than 1 million residents.

The funding came from a combination of federal and state funds, including more than $45 million in federal stimulus dollars.

Judy Dumont, director of the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative, described the project as "essential infrastructure" that will allow for advances in communication, education, economic development and public safety that will allow residents, businesses and agencies to operate on a level playing field with the rest of the planet.

"A lot of opportunities become available when you have that broadband capability," Dumont said.

Once complete, workers will have strung more than 1,200 miles of fiber-optic cable to more than 120 communities in Central and Western Massachusetts.

This month, the first towns to receive broadband are Alford, Egremont, parts of Great Barrington, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Marlboro, Otis, Sandisfield and Sheffield.

The May rollout will include Adams, Cheshire, Dalton, parts of Hinsdale, parts of North Adams, parts of Pittsfield, Savoy and Windsor.

In June, Clarksburg, Florida, parts of Great Barrington, Hancock, Lanesborough, Lee, Lenox, New Ashford, parts of North Adams, Peru, parts of Pittsfield, Richmond, Tyringham, West Stockbridge and Williamstown will be connected.

In the final month of broadband connections, Becket, parts of Hinsdale, and Stockbridge will round out the county.

"Broadband adoption across the commonwealth continues to be an important component to Massachusetts' economic growth and is part of the Patrick-Murray Administration's long-term economic development plan's mission of empowering communities and regions to seek out new opportunities," said Greg Bialecki, the Massachusetts secretary of Housing and Economic Development. "By connecting towns in the western part of the state with broadband Internet, we will see new opportunities for small businesses to compete in the 21st Century economy."

To reach Scott Stafford:
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