Becket, WiredWest eager to move on broadband
To the editor:
Dear Gov. Baker:
We are writing to ask for your support to ensure that the development of the last mile to provide access to high quality, affordable broadband to our town becomes a reality as soon as possible. This is essential to the economic well-being and quality of life of our town.
Our town fully understands the risks of small towns embarking on a project of this scale. That is why we've banded together with other WiredWest towns. WiredWest's plan has been exhaustively reviewed by industry consultants, Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) staff, friends and foes alike, and WiredWest has responded to every criticism.
In December 2015, MBI communicated to municipal broadband leaders that "MBI will not authorize expenditures of state funds for a project with core elements as proposed in [WiredWest's] draft operating agreement and business plan." Since that time, WiredWest has taken steps to address MBI's concerns. A negotiating team undertook an in depth review of WiredWest's plan to include governance, finance and technology. Its findings, "Status of the Broadband Project in WiredWest Member Towns as of March 21, 2016," were widely distributed and well received by member towns.
Becket, in May 2015, received authorization to borrow funds for its share of the costs of construction and installation of a high-speed broadband network by a two-thirds Town Meeting vote. It has approval of a debt exclusion in a townwide vote allowing the town to raise additional tax revenue to pay debt service on what it borrows.
Our citizens are impatient with the delay in getting started. As evidenced by their votes, they overwhelmingly support the town moving this project forward through WiredWest. But each day that goes by without seeing any progress negatively impacts our town residents' trust and our town's economic development.
We ask that you take the necessary action to release the state portion of the broadband funding to each town that has passed the necessary bond authorization and debt exclusion, and do whatever is necessary to allow MBI to move the project forward. We continue to believe that bringing broadband internet to Becket through WiredWest is essential for sustaining population growth and increasing economic development.
We thank you for your support of this crucial infrastructure project. We cannot accomplish it without state funds and look forward to receiving confirmation of your support and action to be taken.
Jeanne W. Pryor, Becket The writer is chair of the Becket Board of Selectmen. The letter was written on behalf of the entire board.