MBI RFP Update . . .

MBI’s R-F-P FOR LARGE INTERNET PROVIDERS IS NOW OUT, and is available HERE for download.  While not enough time has passed to understand it fully, three things seem clear:

1.) Very little time has been allowed for large corporations to respond.  The timeframe from RFP posting (November 18) to when the Proposals are due at MBI on January 11 is less than 60 days.  That span does not make for thorough due diligence, and can cause major missteps and reversals, as was demonstrated quite clearly by the recent about-face by Axia. 

2.) For the 40 towns that are still unresolved and under-served (including Hawley), all of the available grant money is on the table for use by the large corporations.  If one large provider wished to do so, it could theoretically apply for — and receive — the entire $19,680,000.  Meanwhile, most Towns are working feverishly to put their own network proposals together, and have been doing so for years. 

3.) While MBI Chairman Peter Larkin’s letter (see the link at the bottom of the article just below) announcing the coming RFP to the Town Selectboards of October 12 stated that “Towns will retain decision-making authority on whether to accept and move forward with a private sector solution,” there is no mention of that provision in the new RFP.  Except for one small section of legalese by which MBI reserves the right to grant a successful applicant fewer Towns or less territory than it requests, there is no consideration of the wishes of the Towns in the RFP, nor a mechanism for gathering and addressing them.

In the final analysis, it is highly questionable whether a large Internet provider could find a way to provide an affordable, sustainable and mutually-beneficial service to a tiny Town like Hawley.   We can keep dreaming, but we’d better continue  working to create a solution that works for us as well.          

THE MASSACHUSETTS BROADBAND INSTITUTE (MBI) has sent out a letter to Western MA Selectboards announcing its intention to initiate a new Request For Proposal (RFP) process that is part of a policy change that, for the first time, would allow private-sector Internet companies to receive direct buildout monies from MBI for the “last mile”.

The communication from MBI Board Chairman Peter Larkin outlines a change in policy that allows companies like Comcast and Charter Communications to receive MBI funds under “stringent eligibility criteria.” The objective of the new focus by MBI is . . .

“. . . to advance last mile solutions that will accelerate the provision of broadband services to the residents of our unserved communities, reduce and possibly avoid the need for municipalities to invest their own capital and operating funds, and eliminate long term financial risks to municipalities associated with network sustainability.”

Little is known at this point about what this policy change might mean to small Towns like Hawley.  The MBI letter from Chairman Peter Larkin is provided for the reader’s reference as a .pdf download HERE.

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