MBI: To the Drawing Boards Once Again . . .

THE MASSACHUSETTS BROADBAND INSTITUTE (MBI) and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development have issued a joint “need-for-further-study” letter regarding Broadband spending for Western Massachusetts.mbi-letter-to-the-towns This comes after a pause of several weeks in new MBI funding activity while the Baker Administration conducted an operational review in the wake of the resignation of former MBI Director Eric Nakajima.

The current letter is signed jointly by Katie Stebbins, Assistant Secretary, Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, and Elizabeth Copeland, Interim Director, MBI.

Dated March 14, the document states, in part, that “Our goal is to develop and execute a strategy that will provide broadband access to the greatest number of residents possible, access to available sources of financing, offer the best value for the public investment, leverage outside sources of funding and expertise where possible, and operate sustainably over time.” It goes on to say that, “In order to provide effective return on public investment, the Administration wants to ensure affordability and operating sustainability for projects receiving Commonwealth funds.”

In pursuit of those goals, MBI has been tasked with creating a strategic plan “. . . to provide cost effective, financeable and sustainable broadband solutions for Western Massachusetts communities.”

While much of the rhetoric in this letter has been presented by MBI before, the increased emphasis on operational affordability and sustainability is relatively new.

The letter does go on to state that it “. . . will continue to proceed with projects where cost effective and sustainable solutions are identified and access to financing is assured.”

But whether that statement spells a speedup or a slowdown of funding for semi-autonomous Towns like Hawley remains to be seen.

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