Downing: Broadband bill will aid hilltowns

BOSTON - State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, said today that the state Senate passed a bill relative to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute during a rare Friday session.

The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) is a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech); its mission is to expand affordable high-speed Internet or broadband access across the state.

Downing and State Rep. Stephen Kulik, D- Worthington, drafted the bill, S.2184, in consultation with the MBI and cable provider Comcast, in response to guidance received in 2013 that the MBI did not expect the pending Information Technology Bond Bill to fund Last Mile solutions in certain hilltowns that are considered "partially served" by cable providers. The bill provides an incentive for providers - public, non-profit or for-profit -- to invest in broadband infrastructure within these cable-reliant communities.

S.2184 authorizes the MBI to provide grants to public and private entities to build out and extend existing cable infrastructure for high speed Internet in communities who rely solely on cable providers for broadband access. This legislation would assist residents of communities like Buckland, Shelburne and Conway, where today some are able to connect to the Internet through cable broadband, while others are unserved. S. 2184 also creates a working group to provide advice and feedback to MassTech and the MBI on the competitive process of providing grants to providers.

The bill will now go before the House for review and consideration. On Thursday the Senate engrossed H.3770, an Information Technology bond bill, which contains $50 million for the Massachusetts Broadband Incentive Fund, to be used by the MBI to fund Last Mile broadband solutions. A House and Senate conference committee will be appointed to draft a final compromise IT Bond before the end of formal legislative sessions on July 31.


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