South Berkshire towns to get broadband connections soon


GREAT BARRINGTON -- The fast flow of online information via fiber-optic cables could become a reality within two months for many south Berkshire County towns.

Judith Dumont, director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, said that perhaps as soon as late March a floodgate of online information could be made available to schools, town halls, and other businesses located along the fiber-optic cable route.

The Berkshire communities that would reap the early benefits will be Great Barrington, Otis, Sandisfield, Monterey, New Marlborough, Sheffield, Mount Washington, Egremont and Alford.

Especially in rural south Berkshire, information can be limited to other slower modems including dial-up, satellite or a digital subscriber line (DSL).

"This is the culmination of what so many people in Western Massachusetts have worked for," Dumont said. "This will bring the region on parity with the rest of the Commonwealth and the rest of the United States."

The high-speed communication is being made available through the MassBroadband 123 project, a state and federally funded endeavor. The south Berkshire fiber-optic line stretches from Springfield through Sandisfield to Great Barrington and most surrounding communities.

Dumont said installing electronics and testing is all that remains before activating the network. Town officials would need to work out contracts with service providers.

Schools, town halls, and public safety buildings would be early beneficiaries because that's where the fiber-optic lines were placed, Dumont said, but other homes and business will likely benefit in the following months as telecommunications companies provide the infrastructure.

From March through July, Dumont said that other communities across the Berkshires, including those in north central and Western Massachusetts, will begin to reap the benefit of construction started in July 2011.

There was a June 2013 deadline to use all federal funding, but weather complications will lead to an extension from the federal government. There was a month delay following Hurricane Sandy because electrical crews were pulled to assist with electrical wiring in New York.

The pricetag for the project has increased from $71.6 million to about $75 million, Dumont said, because the 911 Commission, Executive Office of Public Safety, and other agencies have requested add-on projects to the fiber-optic project.


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