Broadband grant will help 'last mile'
PITTSFIELD -- A new grant opportunity from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) aims to make it easier for service providers and municipalities to bridge the gap between a new fiber-optic network being built and the "last mile" of connection to homes and businesses.
The competitive grants of up to $50,000 are open to a range of groups, public and private, from major service providers down to small municipalities.
"We’re expecting to get applications from a number of potential providers, big and small, to make it fair and open to the largest possible pool that we could," said Jason Whittet, deputy director at MBI.
The grants, which will require a 25 percent cash or in-kind match from the recipient, are available for both planning and deployment projects, Whittet said.
MBI is currently building a fiber-optic "backbone" throughout Western Massachusetts called MassBroadband 123 that will travel through the centers of many underserved and unserved towns.
The "last mile" is the space between that network and the homes and businesses that are still without high-speed connections. Options for last-mile connection include extending the fiber optic network right to those buildings as well as DSL, cable and wireless Internet, according to Whittet.
"We’ve been out with the community, residents and town officials, listening to what’s going on in the communities, to what they really need to make broadband a reality for some of these hardest-to-serve areas," Whittet said.
Building a new infrastructure such as "fiber to the home," which is the goal in remote towns such as Mount Washington, would make it easier to entice large service providers like Verizon or Time Warner to provide Internet and television, according to Jim Lovejoy, the community liaison to MBI from Mount Washington.
Lovejoy said that he plans to apply for the MBI grant to get the ball rolling on fiber-optics in his town of about 150 residents in the southwest corner of the state.
"If the town were to provide the infrastructure, then service providers could compete for the business of people in town," Lovejoy said.
The grants are due May 9 and will be awarded in June.
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