With new grant for Egremont, Monterey fiber, most of Berkshires coming up to speed

Most existing free broadband hot spots in Central and Western Massachusetts, created in April, have been extended through June.

Note: Due to misinformation provided to The Eagle, an earlier version of this story misidentified the origin of free internet access in the town of Egremont.

The state is reheating those hot spots. The free — and fast — internet hot spots created this year to help people without home broadband will remain in place through half of 2021, the state says.

Though expected to time out at year’s end, the hot spots will remain in place. It is the second time the program, now serving more than two dozen communities around Central and Western Massachusetts, has been extended.

In the Berkshires, the renewed hot spots can be found in Becket, Florida, New Marlborough, Otis, Sandisfield, Savoy and Windsor. A few towns in the region no longer will take part because their last-mile internet projects are in place, according to the state. They include Cummington, Hancock, Washington and Worthington.

In Egremont, a private company, Fiber Connect of the Berkshires, has installed open access hotspots at the town hall. It also provides one at the fire station in Monterey.

Since we’re headed into winter, the state's program now will include the option of helping communities provide access in municipal space indoors, at no cost to the towns.

The Baker-Polito administration announced Thursday that existing outdoor hot spots will run through June 30. The service was set up by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and KCST USA, which operates the MassBroadband 123 fiber-optic network.

Money to pay for the extended program was provided through the state’s Economic Recovery Plan, created in October. While the money pays for the creation of high-speed connections indoors, with social distancing, the towns themselves must cover any costs involved with having internet users indoors, such as the expense of partitions.

Since April, the hot spots have allowed people without broadband to connect with school resources and other content, including telehealth services.

Users pay nothing for the access, which is rated at up to 250 megabits per second, 10 times the federal definition of broadband speed.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and

413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass, investigations editor, joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and CommonWealth Magazine.