With $480,000 broadband grant, Alford is speeding up

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ALFORD - Another Berkshire town is closer to getting fast internet speeds.

Gov. Charlie Baker's office last week announced a $480,000 grant to the town for its ongoing work to create a town-owned fiber-optic network to serve over 350 residences and businesses.

The money will be used in addition to up to $1.6 million the town voted in 2014 for such a project.

"We are really pleased, not only for the money but for the affirmation of the project," said Robert Lichter, chairman of the town's municipal light plant.

The grant comes from the state's "last mile" infrastructure program to help this rural part of the state increase internet speeds for economic growth.

A statement from Baker said that with the Alford announcement, 19 towns representing over 11,000 homes and businesses have received last mile grant funds.

The Baker administration has stepped up efforts in the last year to allocate broadband funds and help the 41 underserved or unserved towns move more quickly towards broadband.

"We understand the critical nature of high-speed reliable internet and its impact," Baker said in a statement.

The Alford Broadband Committee has worked for more than four years to find a solution, and began to try to lock in a plan after the town voted in 2014 to spend up to $1.6 million for a fiber-optic network.

Lichter said it's been a long haul and lauded the work of Bill Ennen, the state's broadband implementation liaison, as a "great resource, and very supportive — I can't say enough good things about him."

Lichter said the "make ready" work to utility poles and design work are almost finished and the town will soon publish an invitation for construction bids.

He said he didn't want to raise expectations by talking about a completion date. But he did give a clue.

"Assuming there are no glitches, we're targeting for [completion] late spring, early summer of next year," he said. "With luck it could be earlier, but it's all guesswork at this point."

Reach staff writer Heather Bellow at 413-329-6871


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