MBI Relaxes Policy on Funding . . .

RESPONDING TO FEEDBACK FROM A HEARING that was held in Worthington, MA on February 16, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) has changed its policy on distribution of funds to Western Massachusetts Towns interested in creating Broadband networks.  According to a February 27 article in the Berkshire Eagle, “. . . the MBI will free up money until now earmarked for internal engineering use by the Institute. Instead, it will provide millions of dollars intended for ‘professional services’ as direct grants to towns that want to build and own their ‘last mile’ systems.”

It is not yet totally clear what percentage of the “Professional Services” moneys will actually be made available to the Towns, and for what uses.  For the Town of Hawley, given that its original allocation was . . .

  • $250,000 for Construction; and,
  • $270,000 for Professional Services . . .

. . . this policy change could mean that the Town would have access to more than twice the amount of State funding — up to $520,000 — to engineer and build its fixed wireless network.

Unfortunately, money to construct the network is not the Town’s only consideration.  Another very important one is operating viability — i.e., the network has to operate at break-even or a small surplus to be sustainable.  Taking the response to the Town’s most recent High Speed Internet Survey into account, current calculations say that the system would lose about $40,000 per year, and would thus not yet be something that the Town’s Communications Committee could recommend.

Still, being able to use the Professional Services allocation from MBI is an important windfall, one of a number of items that the Communications Committee has listed as being key factors in being able to move forward (click HERE for more information).

In the hope that a more affordable overall solution can be found, the Committee will continue to consider all available options. 

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